It is not only when He is about to send me some trial that Our Lord gives me warning and awakens my desire for it. For years I had cherished a longing which seemed impossible of realisation -- to have a brother a Priest. I often used to think that if my little brothers had not gone to Heaven, I should have had the happiness of seeing them at the Altar. I greatly regretted being deprived of this joy. Yet God went beyond my dream; I only asked for one brother who would remember me each day at the Holy Altar, and He has united me in the bonds of spiritual friendship with two of His apostles. I should like to tell you, dear Mother, how Our Divine Master fulfilled my desire.
In 1895 our holy Mother, St. Teresa, sent my first brother as a gift for my feast. It was washing day, and I was busy at my work, when Mother Agnes of Jesus, then Prioress, called me aside and read me a letter from a young Seminarist, in which he said he had been inspired by St. Teresa to ask for a sister who would devote herself specially to his salvation, and to the salvation of his future flock. He promised always to remember this spiritual sister when saying Mass, and the choice fell upon me. Dear Mother, I cannot tell you how happy this made me. Such unlooked-for fulfillment of my desire awoke in my heart the joy of a child; it carried me back to those early days, when pleasures were so keen, that my heart seemed too small to contain them. Years had passed since I had tasted a like happiness, so fresh, so unfamiliar, as if forgotten chords had been stirred within me.
Fully aware of my obligations, I set to work, and strove to redouble my fervour. Now and again I wrote to my new brother. Undoubtedly, it is by prayer and sacrifice that we can help our missionaries, but sometimes, when it pleases Our Lord to unite two souls for His Glory, He permits them to communicate their thoughts, and thus inspire each other to love God more. Of course an express command from those in authority is needed for this, otherwise, it seems to me, that such a correspondence would do more harm than good, if not to the missionary, at least to the Carmelite, whose manner of life tends to continual introversion. This exchange of letters, though rare, would occupy her mind uselessly; instead of uniting her to God, she would perhaps fancy she was doing wonders, when in reality, under cover of zeal, she was doing nothing but producing needless distraction. -- And here am I, launched, not upon a distraction, but upon a dissertation equally superfluous. I shall never be able to correct myself of these lengthy digressions which must be so wearisome to you, dear Mother. Forgive me, should I offend again.
Last year, at the end of May, it was your turn to give me my second brother, and when I represented that, having given all my merits to one future apostle, I feared they could not be given to another, you told me that obedience would double their value. In the depths of my heart I thought the same thing, and, since the zeal of a Carmelite ought to embrace the whole world, I hope, with God's help, to be of use to even more than two missionaries. I pray for all, not forgetting our Priests at home, whose ministry is quite as difficult as that of the missionary preaching to the heathen. . . . In a word, I wish to be a true daughter of the Church, like our holy Mother St. Teresa, and pray for all the intentions of Christ's Vicar. That is the one great aim of my life. But just as I should have had a special interest in my little brothers had they lived, and that, without neglecting the general interests of the Church, so now, I unite myself in a special way to the new brothers whom Jesus has given me. All that I possess is theirs also. God is too good to give by halves; He is so rich that He gives me all I ask for, even though I do not lose myself in lengthy enumerations. As I have two brothers and my little sisters, the novices, the days would be too short were I to ask in detail for the needs of each soul, and I fear I might forget something important. Simple souls cannot understand complicated methods, and, as I am one of their number, Our Lord has inspired me with a very simple way of fulfilling my obligations. One day, after Holy Communion, He made me understand these words of the Canticles: |Draw me: we will run after Thee to the odour of Thy ointments.| O my Jesus, there is no need to say: |In drawing me, draw also the souls that I love|: these words, |Draw me,| suffice. When a soul has let herself be taken captive by the inebriating odour of Thy perfumes, she cannot run alone; as a natural consequence of her attraction towards Thee, the souls of all those she loves are drawn in her train.
Just as a torrent carries into the depths of the sea all that it meets on its way, so, my Jesus, does the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Thy Love bring with it all its treasures. My treasures are the souls it has pleased thee to unite with mine; Thou hast confided them to me, and therefore I do not fear to use Thy own words, uttered by Thee on the last night that saw Thee still a traveller on this earth. Jesus, my Beloved! I know not when my exile will have an end. Many a night I may yet sing Thy Mercies here below, but for me also will come the last night, and then I shall be able to say:
|I have glorified Thee upon earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do. I have manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou hast given me out of the world. Thine they were, and to me Thou gavest them; and they have kept Thy word. Now they have known that all things which Thou hast given me are from Thee: because the words which Thou gavest me I have given to them; and they have received them, and have known for certain that I came forth from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them whom Thou hast given me, because they are Thine. And all mine are Thine, and Thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, whom Thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we also are one. And now I come to Thee, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy filled in themselves. I do not ask that Thou take them away out of the world, but that Thou preserve them from evil. They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. And not for them only do I pray, but for those also who through their word shall believe in me. Father, I will that where I am they also whom Thou hast given me may be with me, that they may see my glory which Thou hast given me, because Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world. And I have made known Thy name unto them, and will make it known, that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them.|
Yea, Lord, thus would I repeat Thy words, before losing myself in Thy loving embrace. Perhaps it is daring, but, for a long time, hast thou not allowed me to be daring with Thee? Thou hast said to me, as the Prodigal's father to his elder son: |All I have is thine.| And therefore I may use thy very own words to draw down favours from Our Heavenly Father on all who are dear to me.
My God, Thou knowest that I have ever desired to love Thee alone. It has been my only ambition. Thy love has gone before me, even from the days of my childhood. It has grown with my growth, and now it is an abyss whose depths I cannot fathom.
Love attracts love; mine darts towards Thee, and would fain make the abyss brim over, but alas! it is not even as a dewdrop in the ocean. To love Thee as Thou lovest me, I must make Thy Love mine own. Thus alone can I find rest. O my Jesus, it seems to me that Thou couldst not have overwhelmed a soul with more love than Thou hast poured out on mine, and that is why I dare ask Thee to love those Thou hast given me, even as Thou lovest me.
If, in Heaven, I find that thou lovest them more than Thou lovest me, I shall rejoice, for I acknowledge that their deserts are greater than mine, but now, I can conceive no love more vast than that with which Thou hast favoured me, without any merit on my part.
. . . . . . .
Dear Mother, what I have just written amazes me. I had no intention of writing it. When I said: |The words which Thou gavest me I have given unto them,| I was thinking only of my little sisters in the noviciate. I am not able to teach missionaries, and the words I wrote for them were from the prayer of Our Lord: |I do not ask that Thou shouldst take them out of the world; I pray also for them who through their word shall believe in Thee.|
How could I forget those souls they are to win by their sufferings and exhortations?
But I have not told you all my thoughts on this passage of the Sacred Canticles: |Draw me -- we will run!| Our Lord has said: |No man can come to Me except the Father Who hath sent Me, draw him,| and later He tells us that whosoever seeks shall find, whosoever asks shall receive, that unto him that knocks it shall be opened, and He adds that whatever we ask the Father in His Name shall be given us. It was no doubt for this reason that, long before the birth of Our Lord, the Holy Spirit dictated these prophetic words: |Draw me -- we will run!| By asking to be drawn, we desire an intimate union with the object of our love. If iron and fire were endowed with reason, and the iron could say: |Draw me!| would not that prove its desire to be identified with the fire to the point of sharing its substance? Well, this is precisely my prayer. I asked Jesus to draw me into the Fire of His love, and to unite me so closely to Himself that He may live and act in me. I feel that the more the fire of love consumes my heart, so much the more shall I say: |Draw me!| and the more also will souls who draw near me run swiftly in the sweet odour of the Beloved.
Yes, they will run -- we shall all run together, for souls that are on fire can never be at rest. They may indeed, like St. Mary Magdalen, sit at the feet of Jesus, listening to His sweet and burning words, but, though they seem to give Him nothing, they give much more than Martha, who busied herself about many things. It is not Martha's work that Our Lord blames, but her over-solicitude; His Blessed Mother humbly occupied herself in the same kind of work when she prepared the meals for the Holy Family. All the Saints have understood this, especially those who have illumined the earth with the light of Christ's teaching. Was it not from prayer that St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa, and so many other friends of God drew that wonderful science which has enthralled the loftiest minds[?]
|Give me a lever and a fulcrum on which to lean it,| said Archimedes, |and I will lift the world.|
What he could not obtain because his request had only a material end, without reference to God, the Saints have obtained in all its fulness. They lean on God Almighty's power itself and their lever is the prayer that inflames with love's fire. With this lever they have raised the world -- with this lever the Saints of the Church Militant still raise it, and will raise it to the end of time.
Dear Mother, I have still to tell you what I understand by the sweet odour of the Beloved. As Our Lord is now in Heaven, I can only follow Him by the footprints He has left -- footprints full of life, full of fragrance. I have only to open the Holy Gospels and at once I breathe the perfume of Jesus, and then I know which way to run; and it is not to the first place, but to the last, that I hasten. I leave the Pharisee to go up, and full of confidence I repeat the humble prayer of the Publican. Above all I follow Magdalen, for the amazing, rather I should say, the loving audacity, that delights the Heart of Jesus, has cast its spell upon mine. It is not because I have been preserved from mortal sin that I lift up my heart to God in trust and love. I feel that even had I on my conscience every crime one could commit, I should lose nothing of my confidence: my heart broken with sorrow, I would throw myself into the Arms of my Saviour. I know that He loves the Prodigal Son, I have heard His words to St. Mary Magdalen, to the woman taken in adultery, and to the woman of Samaria. No one could frighten me, for I know what to believe concerning His Mercy and His Love. And I know that all that multitude of sins would disappear in an instant, even as a drop of water cast into a flaming furnace.
It is told in the Lives of the Fathers of the Desert how one of them converted a public sinner, whose evil deeds were the scandal of the whole country. This wicked woman, touched by grace, followed the Saint into the desert, there to perform rigorous penance. But on the first night of the journey, before even reaching the place of her retirement, the bonds that bound her to earth were broken by the vehemence of her loving sorrow. The holy man, at the same instant, saw her soul borne by Angels to the Bosom of God.
This is a striking example of what I want to say, but these things cannot be expressed. Dearest Mother, if weak and imperfect souls like mine felt what I feel, none would despair of reaching the summit of the Mountain of Love, since Jesus does not ask for great deeds, but only for gratitude and self-surrender.
He says: |I will not take the he-goats from out of the flocks, for all the beasts of the forests are mine, the cattle on the hills and the oxen. I know all the fowls of the air. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee, for the world is Mine, and the fulness thereof. Shall I eat the flesh of bullocks, or shall I drink the blood of goats? Offer to God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.|
This is all Our Lord claims from us. He has need of our love -- He has no need of our works. The same God, Who declares that He has no need to tell us if He be hungry, did not disdain to beg a little water from the Samaritan woman. He was athirst, but when He said: |Give me to drink,| He, the Creator of the Universe, asked for the love of His creature. He thirsted for love.
And this thirst of Our Divine Lord was ever on the increase. Amongst the disciples of the world, He meets with nothing but indifference and ingratitude, and alas! among His own, how few hearts surrender themselves without reserve to the infinite tenderness of His Love. Happy are we who are privileged to understand the inmost secrets of Our Divine Spouse. If you, dear Mother, would but set down in writing all you know, what wonders could you not unfold!
But, like Our Blessed Lady, you prefer to keep all these things in your heart. To me you say that |It is honourable to reveal and confess the world of God.| Yet you are right to keep silence, for no earthly words can convey the secrets of Heaven.
As for me, in spite of all I have written, I have not as yet begun. I see so many beautiful horizons, such infinitely varied tints, that the palette of the Divine Painter will alone, after the darkness of this life, be able to supply me with the colours wherewith I may portray the wonders that my soul descries. Since, however, you have expressed a desire to penetrate into the hidden sanctuary of my heart, and to have in writing what was the most consoling dream of my life, I will end this story of my soul, by an act of obedience. If you will allow me, it is to Jesus I will address myself, for in this way I shall speak more easily. You may find my expressions somewhat exaggerated, but I assure you there is no exaggeration in my heart -- there all is calm and peace.
O my Jesus, who can say how tenderly and gently Thou dost lead my soul! The storm had raged there ever since Easter, the glorious feast of Thy triumph, until, in the month of May, there shone through the darkness of my night one bright ray of grace. . . . My mind dwelt on mysterious dreams sent sometimes to Thy favoured ones, and I thought how such a consolation was not to be mine -- that for me, it was night, always the dark night. And in the midst of the storm I fell asleep. The following day, May 10, just at dawn, I dreamt that I was walking in a gallery alone with Our Mother. Suddenly, without knowing how they had entered, I perceived three Carmelites, in mantles and long veils, and I knew that they came from Heaven. |Ah!| I thought, |how glad I should be if I could but look on the face of one of these Carmelites!| And, as if my wish had been heard, I saw the tallest of the three Saints advance towards me. An inexpressible joy took possession of me as she raised her veil, and then covered me with it.
At once I recognised our Venerable Mother, Anne of Jesus, foundress of the Carmel in France. Her face was beautiful with an unearthly beauty; no rays came from it, and yet, in spite of the thick veil which enveloped us, I could see it suffused by a soft light, which seemed to emanate from her heavenly countenance. She caressed me tenderly, and seeing myself the object of such affection, I made bold to say: |Dear Mother, I entreat you, tell me, will Our Lord leave me much longer in this world? Will He not soon come to fetch me?| She smiled sweetly, and answered, |Yes, soon . . . very soon . . . I promise you.| |Dear Mother,| I asked again, |tell me if He does not want more from me than these poor little acts and desires that I offer Him. Is He pleased with me?| Then our Venerable Mother's face shone with a new splendour, and her expression became still more gracious: |The Good God asks no more of you,| she said, |He is pleased, quite pleased,| and, taking my head between her hands, she kissed me so tenderly that it would be impossible to describe the joy I felt. My heart was overflowing with gladness, and, remembering my Sisters, I was about to beseech some favour for them, when, alas! I awoke. My happiness was too great for words. Many months have passed since I had this wonderful dream, and yet its memory is as fresh and delightful as ever. I can still picture the loving smiles of this holy Carmelite and feel her fond caresses. O Jesus! |Thou didst command the winds and the storm, and there came a great calm.|
On waking, I realised that Heaven does indeed exist, and that this Heaven is peopled with souls who cherish me as their child, and this impression still remains with me -- all the sweeter, because, up to that time, I had but little devotion to the Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus. I had never sought her help, and but rarely heard her name. And now I know and understand how constantly I was in her thoughts, and the knowledge adds to my love for her and for all the dear ones in my Father's Home.
O my Beloved! this was but the prelude of graces yet greater which Thou didst desire to heap upon me. Let me remind Thee of them to-day, and forgive my folly if I venture to tell Thee once more of my hopes, and my heart's well nigh infinite longings -- forgive me and grant my desire, that it may be well with my soul. To be Thy Spouse, O my Jesus, to be a daughter of Carmel, and by my union with Thee to be the mother of souls, should not all this content me? And yet other vocations make themselves felt -- I feel called to the Priesthood and to the Apostolate -- I would be a Martyr, a Doctor of the Church. I should like to accomplish the most heroic deeds -- the spirit of the Crusader burns within me, and I long to die on the field of battle in defence of Holy Church.
The vocation of a Priest! With what love, my Jesus, would I bear Thee in my hand, when my words brought Thee down from Heaven! With what love would I give Thee to souls! And yet, while longing to be a Priest, I admire and envy the humility of St. Francis of Assisi, and am drawn to imitate him by refusing the sublime dignity of the Priesthood. How reconcile these opposite tendencies?
Like the Prophets and Doctors, I would be a light unto souls, I would travel to every land to preach Thy name, O my Beloved, and raise on heathen soil the glorious standard of Thy Cross. One mission alone would not satisfy my longings. I would spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, even to the most distant isles. I would be a Missionary, not for a few years only, but, were it possible, from the beginning of the world till the consummation of time. Above all, I thirst for the Martyr's crown. It was the desire of my earliest days, and the desire has deepened with the years passed in the Carmel's narrow cell. But this too is folly, since I do not sigh for one torment; I need them all to slake my thirst. Like Thee, O Adorable Spouse, I would be scourged, I would be crucified! I would be flayed like St. Bartholomew, plunged into boiling oil like St. John, or, like St. Ignatius of Antioch, ground by the teeth of wild beasts into a bread worthy of God.
With St. Agnes and St. Cecilia I would offer my neck to the sword of the executioner, and like Joan of Arc I would murmur the name of Jesus at the stake.
My heart thrills at the thought of the frightful tortures Christians are to suffer at the time of Anti-Christ, and I long to undergo them all. Open, O Jesus, the Book of Life, in which are written the deeds of Thy Saints: all the deeds told in that book I long to have accomplished for Thee. To such folly as this what answer wilt Thou make? Is there on the face of this earth a soul more feeble than mine? And yet, precisely because I am feeble, it has delighted Thee to accede to my least and most child-like desires, and to-day it is Thy good pleasure to realise those other desires, more vast than the Universe. These aspirations becoming a true martyrdom, I opened, one day, the Epistles of St. Paul to seek relief in my sufferings. My eyes fell on the 12th and 13th chapters of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. I read that all cannot become Apostles, Prophets, and Doctors; that the Church is composed of different members; that the eye cannot also be the hand. The answer was clear, but it did not fulfill my desires, or give to me the peace I sought. |Then descending into the depths of my nothingness, I was so lifted up that I reached my aim.|
Without being discouraged I read on, and found comfort in this counsel: |Be zealous for the better gifts. And I show unto you a yet more excellent way.| The Apostle then explains how all perfect gifts are nothing without Love, that Charity is the most excellent way of going surely to God. At last I had found rest.
Meditating on the mystical Body of Holy Church, I could not recognise myself among any of its members as described by St. Paul, or was it not rather that I wished to recognise myself in all? Charity provided me with the key to my vocation. I understood that since the Church is a body composed of different members, the noblest and most important of all the organs would not be wanting. I knew that the Church has a heart, that this heart burns with love, and that it is love alone which gives life to its members. I knew that if this love were extinguished, the Apostles would no longer preach the Gospel, and the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. I understood that love embraces all vocations, that it is all things, and that it reaches out through all the ages, and to the uttermost limits of the earth, because it is eternal.
Then, beside myself with joy, I cried out: |O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love! Yes, I have found my place in the bosom of the Church, and this place, O my God, Thou hast Thyself given to me: in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be LOVE! . . . Thus I shall be all things: thus will my dream be realised. . . .|
Why do I say I am beside myself with joy? This does not convey my thought. Rather is it peace which has become my portion -- the calm peace of the sailor when he catches sight of the beacon which lights him to port. O luminous Beacon of Love! I know how to come even unto Thee, I have found the means of borrowing Thy Fires.
I am but a weak and helpless child, yet it is my very weakness which makes me dare to offer myself, O Jesus, as victim to Thy Love.
In olden days pure and spotless holocausts alone were acceptable to the Omnipotent God. Nor could His Justice be appeased, save by the most perfect sacrifices. But the law of fear has given place to the law of love, and Love has chosen me, a weak and imperfect creature, as its victim. Is not such a choice worthy of God's Love? Yea, for in order that Love may be fully satisfied, it must stoop even unto nothingness, and must transform that nothingness into fire. O my God, I know it -- |Love is repaid by love alone.| Therefore I have sought, I have found, how to ease my heart, by rendering Thee love for love.
|Use the riches that make men unjust, to find you friends who may receive you into everlasting dwellings.| This, O Lord, is the advice Thou gavest to Thy disciples after complaining that |the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.|
Child of light, as I am, I understood that my desires to be all things, and to embrace all vocations, were riches that might well make me unjust; so I set to work to use them for the making of friends. Mindful of the prayer of Eliseus when he asked the Prophet Elias for his double spirit, I presented myself before the company of the Angels and Saints and addressed them thus: |I am the least of all creatures. I know my mean estate, but I know that noble and generous hearts love to do good. Therefore, O Blessed Inhabitants of the Celestial City, I entreat you to adopt me as your child. All the glory that you help me to acquire, will be yours; only deign to hear my prayer, and obtain for me a double portion of the love of God.|
O my God! I cannot measure the extent of my request, I should fear to be crushed by the very weight of its audacity. My only excuse is my claim to childhood, and that children do not grasp the full meaning of their words. Yet if a father or mother were on the throne and possessed vast treasures, they would not hesitate to grant the desires of those little ones, more dear to them than life itself. To give them pleasure they will stoop even unto folly.
Well, I am a child of Holy Church, and the Church is a Queen, because she is now espoused to the Divine King of Kings. I ask not for riches or glory, not even the glory of Heaven -- that belongs by right to my brothers the Angels and Saints, and my own glory shall be the radiance that streams from the queenly brow of my Mother, the Church. Nay, I ask for Love. To love Thee, Jesus, is now my only desire. Great deeds are not for me; I cannot preach the Gospel or shed my blood. No matter! My brothers work in my stead, and I, a little child, stay close to the throne, and love Thee for all who are in the strife.
But how shall I show my love, since love proves itself by deeds? Well! The little child will strew flowers . . . she will embrace the Divine Throne with their fragrance, she will sing Love's Canticle in silvery tones. Yes, my Beloved, it is thus my short life shall be spent in Thy sight. The only way I have of proving my love is to strew flowers before Thee -- that is to say, I will let no tiny sacrifice pass, no look, no word. I wish to profit by the smallest actions, and to do them for Love. I wish to suffer for Love's sake, and for Love's sake even to rejoice: thus shall I strew flowers. Not one shall I find without scattering its petals before Thee . . . and I will sing . . . I will sing always, even if my roses must be gathered from amidst thorns; and the longer and sharper the thorns, the sweeter shall be my song.
But of what avail to thee, my Jesus, are my flowers and my songs? I know it well: this fragrant shower, these delicate petals of little price, these songs of love from a poor little heart like mine, will nevertheless be pleasing unto Thee. Trifles they are, but Thou wilt smile on them. The Church Triumphant, stooping towards her child, will gather up these scattered rose leaves, and, placing them in Thy Divine Hands, there to acquire an infinite value, will shower them on the Church Suffering to extinguish its flames, and on the Church Militant to obtain its victory.
O my Jesus, I love Thee! I love my Mother, the Church; I bear in mind that |the least act of pure love is of more value to her than all other works together.|
But is this pure love really in my heart? Are not my boundless desires but dreams -- but foolishness? If this be so, I beseech Thee to enlighten me; Thou knowest I seek but the truth. If my desires be rash, then deliver me from them, and from this most grievous of all martyrdoms. And yet I confess, if I reach not those heights to which my soul aspires, this very martyrdom, this foolishness, will have been sweeter to me than eternal bliss will be, unless by a miracle Thou shouldst take from me all memory of the hopes I entertained upon earth. Jesus, Jesus! If the mere desire of Thy Love awakens such delight, what will it be to possess it, to enjoy it for ever?
How can a soul so imperfect as mine aspire to the plenitude of Love? What is the key of this mystery? O my only Friend, why dost Thou not reserve these infinite longings to lofty souls, to the eagles that soar in the heights? Alas! I am but a poor little unfledged bird. I am not an eagle, I have but the eagle's eyes and heart! Yet, notwithstanding my exceeding littleless, I dare to gaze upon the Divine Sun of Love, and I burn to dart upwards unto Him! I would fly, I would imitate the eagles; but all that I can do is to lift up my little wings -- it is beyond my feeble power to soar. What is to become of me? Must I die of sorrow because of my helplessness? Oh, no! I will not even grieve. With daring self-abandonment there will I remain until death, my gaze fixed upon that Divine Sun. Nothing shall affright me, nor wind nor rain. And should impenetrable clouds conceal the Orb of Love, and should I seem to believe that beyond this life there is darkness only, that would be the hour of perfect joy, the hour in which to push my confidence to its uttermost bounds. I should not dare to detach my gaze, well knowing that beyond the dark clouds the sweet Sun still shines.
So far, O my God, I understand Thy Love for me. But Thou knowest how often I forget this, my only care. I stray from Thy side, and my scarcely fledged wings become draggled in the muddy pools of earth; then I lament |like a young swallow,| and my lament tells Thee all, and I remember, O Infinite Mercy! that |Thou didst not come to call the just, but sinners.|
Yet shouldst Thou still be deaf to the plaintive cries of Thy feeble creature, shouldst Thou still be veiled, then I am content to remain benumbed with cold, my wings bedraggled, and once more I rejoice in this well-deserved suffering.
O Sun, my only Love, I am happy to feel myself so small, so frail in Thy sunshine, and I am in peace . . . I know that all the eagles of Thy Celestial Court have pity on me, they guard and defend me, they put to flight the vultures -- the demons that fain would devour me. I fear them not, these demons, I am not destined to be their prey, but the prey of the Divine Eagle.
O Eternal Word! O my Saviour! Thou art the Divine Eagle Whom I love -- Who lurest me. Thou Who, descending to this land of exile, didst will to suffer and to die, in order to bear away the souls of men and plunge them into the very heart of the Blessed Trinity -- Love's Eternal Home! Thou Who, reascending into inaccessible light, dost still remain concealed here in our vale of tears under the snow-white semblance of the Host, and this, to nourish me with Thine own substance! O Jesus! forgive me if I tell Thee that Thy Love reacheth even unto folly. And in face of this folly, what wilt Thou, but that my heart leap up to Thee? How could my trust have any limits?
I know that the Saints have made themselves as fools for Thy sake; being 'eagles,' they have done great things. I am too little for great things, and my folly it is to hope that Thy Love accepts me as victim; my folly it is to count on the aid of Angels and Saints, in order that I may fly unto Thee with thine own wings, O my Divine Eagle! For as long a time as Thou willest I shall remain -- my eyes fixed upon Thee. I long to be allured by Thy Divine Eyes; I would become Love's prey. I have the hope that Thou wilt one day swoop down upon me, and, bearing me away to the Source of all Love, Thou wilt plunge me at last into that glowing abyss, that I may become for ever its happy Victim.
O Jesus! would that I could tell all little souls of Thine ineffable condescension! I feel that if by any possibility Thou couldst find one weaker than my own, Thou wouldst take delight in loading her with still greater favours, provided that she abandoned herself with entire confidence to Thine Infinite Mercy. But, O my Spouse, why these desires of mine to make known the secrets of Thy Love? Is it not Thyself alone Who hast taught them to me, and canst Thou not unveil them to others? Yea! I know it, and this I implore Thee! . . .
I ENTREAT THEE TO LET THY DIVINE EYES REST UPON A VAST NUMBER OF LITTLE SOULS, I ENTREAT THEE TO CHOOSE, IN THIS WORLD, A LEGION OF LITTLE VICTIMS OF THY LOVE.
Cf. John 17.
Cf. Luke 2:19.
The Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus -- in the world, Anne of Lobera -- was born in Spain in 1545. She entered the Carmelite Order in 1570, in the first convent of St. Joseph of Avila, and shortly afterwards became the counsellor and coadjutor of St. Teresa, who called her, |her daughter and her crown.| St. John of the Cross, who was her spiritual director for fourteen years, described her as |a seraph incarnate,| and her prudence and sanctity were held in such esteem that the most learned men consulted her in their doubts, and accepted her answers as oracles. She was always faithful to the spirit of St. Teresa, and had received from Heaven the mission to restore the Carmel to its primitive perfection. Having founded three convents of the Reform in Spain, she established one in France, and another in Belgium. She died in the odor of sanctity in the Carmel of Brussels on March 4, 1621. On May 3, 1878, His Holiness Pope Leo XIII signed the Decree introducing the Cause of her Beatification.
St. Francis of Assisi, out of humility, refused to accept the sublime dignity of the Priesthood, and remained a Deacon until his death. [Ed.]
An allusion to the beautiful words of the martyr St. Ignatius of Antioch, uttered when he heard the roar of the lions in the Roman arena. |I am the wheat of Christ; let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may become clean bread.| [Ed.]
St. John of the Cross.
St. John of the Cross.
Cf. Luke 16:9.
St. John of the Cross.
END OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY
EPILOGUE: A VICTIM OF DIVINE LOVE
|Many pages of this story| -- said its writer -- |will never be read upon earth.| It is necessary to repeat and emphasize her words. There are sufferings which are not to be disclosed here below; Our Lord has jealously reserved to Himself the right to reveal their merit and glory, in the clear vision where all veils shall be removed. |My God,| she cried on the day of her religious profession, |give me martyrdom of soul or body . . . or rather give me both the one and the other!| And Our Lord Who, as she herself avowed, fulfilled all her desires, granted this one also, and in more abundant measure than the rest. He caused |the floods of infinite tenderness pent up in His Divine Heart to overflow into the soul of His little Spouse.| This was the |Martyrdom of Love,| so well described in her melodious song. But it was her own doctrine that, |to dedicate oneself as a Victim of Love is not to be dedicated to sweetness and consolations; it is to offer oneself to all that is painful and bitter, because Love lives only by sacrifice . . . and the more we would surrender ourselves to Love, the more we must surrender ourselves to suffering.|
Therefore, because she desired to attain |the loftiest height of Love,| the Divine Master led her thither by the rugged path of sorrow, and it was only on its bleak summit that she died a Victim of Love.
. . . . . . .
We have seen how great was her sacrifice in leaving her happy home and the Father who loved her so tenderly. It may be imagined that this sacrifice was softened, because at the Carmel she found again her two elder and dearly loved sisters. On the contrary, this afforded the young postulant many an occasion for repressing her strong natural affections. The rules of solitude and silence were strictly observed, and she only saw her sisters at recreation. Had she been less mortified, she might often have sat beside them, but |by preference she sought out the company of those religious who were least agreeable to her,| and no one could tell whether or not she bore a special affection towards her own sisters.
Some time after her entrance, she was appointed as |aid| to Sister Agnes of Jesus, her dear |Pauline|; this was a fresh occasion for sacrifice. Therese knew that all unnecessary conversation was forbidden, and therefore she never allowed herself even the least word. |O my little Mother,| she said later, |how I suffered! I could not open my heart to you, and I thought you no longer knew me!|
After five years of this heroic silence, Sister Agnes of Jesus was elected Prioress. On the evening of the election Therese might well have rejoiced that henceforth she could speak freely to her |little Mother,| and, as of old, pour out her soul. But sacrifice had become her daily food. If she sought one favour more than another, it was that she might be looked on as the lowest and the least; and, among all the religious, not one saw less of the Mother Prioress.
She desired to live the life of Carmel with all the perfection required by St. Teresa, and, although a martyr to habitual dryness, her prayer was continuous. On one occasion a novice, entering her cell, was struck by the heavenly expression of her countenance. She was sewing industriously, and yet seemed lost in deep contemplation. |What are you thinking of?| the young Sister asked. |I am meditating on the 'Our Father,'| Therese answered. |It is so sweet to call God, 'Our Father!'| . . . and tears glistened in her eyes. Another time she said, |I cannot well see what more I shall have in Heaven than I have now; I shall see God, it is true, but, as to being with Him, I am that already even on earth.|
The flame of Divine Love consumed her, and this is what she herself relates: |A few days after the oblation of myself to God's Merciful Love, I was in the choir, beginning the Way of the Cross, when I felt myself suddenly wounded by a dart of fire so ardent that I thought I should die. I do not know how to explain this transport; there is no comparison to describe the intensity of that flame. It seemed as though an invisible force plunged me wholly into fire. . . . But oh! what fire! what sweetness!|
When Mother Prioress asked her if this rapture was the first she had experienced, she answered simply: |Dear Mother, I have had several transports of love, and one in particular during my Noviciate, when I remained for a whole week far removed from this world. It seemed as though a veil were thrown over all earthly things. But, I was not then consumed by a real fire. I was able to bear those transports of love without expecting to see the ties that bound me to earth give way; whilst, on the day of which I now speak, one minute -- one second -- more and my soul must have been set free. Alas! I found myself again on earth, and dryness at once returned to my heart.| True, the Divine Hand had withdrawn the fiery dart -- but the wound was unto death!
In that close union with God, Therese acquired a remarkable mastery over self. All sweet virtues flourished in the garden of her soul, but do not let us imagine that these wondrous flowers grew without effort on her part.
|In this world there is no fruitfulness without suffering -- either physical pain, secret sorrow, or trials known sometimes only to God. When good thoughts and generous resolutions have sprung up in our souls through reading the lives of the Saints, we ought not to content ourselves, as in the case of profane books, with paying a certain tribute of admiration to the genius of their authors -- we should rather consider the price which, doubtless, they have paid for that supernatural good they have produced.|
And, if to-day Therese transforms so many hearts, and the good she does on earth is beyond reckoning, we may well believe she bought it all at the price with which Jesus bought back our souls: by suffering and the Cross!
Not the least of these sufferings was the unceasing war she waged against herself, refusing every satisfaction to the demands of her naturally proud and impetuous nature. While still a child she had acquired the habit of never excusing herself or making a complaint; at the Carmel she strove to be the little servant of her Sisters in religion, and in that same spirit of humility she endeavoured to obey all without distinction.
One evening, during her illness, the Community had assembled in the garden to sing a hymn before an Altar of the Sacred Heart. Soeur Therese, who was already wasted by fever, joined them with difficulty, and, arriving quite exhausted, was obliged to sit down at once. When the hymn began, one of the Sisters made her a sign to stand up. Without hesitation, the humble child rose, and, in spite of the fever and great oppression from which she was suffering, remained standing to the end.
The Infirmarian had advised her to take a little walk in the garden for a quarter of an hour each day. This recommendation was for her a command. One afternoon a Sister, noticing what an effort it cost her, said: |Soeur Therese, you would do much better to rest; walking like this cannot do you any good. You only tire yourself!| |That is true,| she replied, |but, do you know what gives me strength? I offer each step for some missionary. I think that possibly, over there, far away, one of them is weary and tired in his apostolic labours, and to lessen his fatigue I offer mine to the Good God.|
She gave her novices some beautiful examples of detachment. One year the relations of the Sisters and the servants of the Convent had sent bouquets of flowers for Mother Prioress's feast. Therese was arranging them most tastefully, when a Lay-sister said crossly: |It is easy to see that the large bouquets have been given by your friends. I suppose those sent by the poor will again be put in the background!| . . . A sweet smile was the only reply, and notwithstanding the unpleasing effect, she immediately put the flowers sent by the servants in the most conspicuous place.
Struck with admiration, the Lay-sister went at once to the Prioress to accuse herself of her unkindness, and to praise the patience and humility shown by Soeur Therese.
After the death of Therese that same Sister, full of confidence, pressed her forehead against the feet of the saintly nun, once more asking forgiveness for her fault. At the same instant she felt herself cured of cerebral anaemia, from which she had suffered for many years, and which had prevented her from applying herself either to reading or mental prayer.
Far from avoiding humiliations, Soeur Therese sought them eagerly, and for that reason she offered herself as |aid| to a Sister who, she well knew, was difficult to please, and her generous proposal was accepted. One day, when she had suffered much from this Sister, a novice asked her why she looked so happy. Great was her surprise on receiving the reply: |It is because Sister N. has just been saying disagreeable things to me. What pleasure she has given me! I wish I could meet her now, and give her a sweet smile.| . . . As she was still speaking, the Sister in question knocked at the door, and the astonished novice could see for herself how the Saints forgive. Soeur Therese acknowledged later on, she |soared so high above earthly things that humiliations did but make her stronger.|
To all these virtues she joined a wonderful courage. From her entrance into the Carmel, at the age of fifteen, she was allowed to follow all the practices of its austere Rule, the fasts alone excepted. Sometimes her companions in the noviciate, seeing how pale she looked, tried to obtain a dispensation for her, either from the Night Office, or from rising at the usual hour in the morning, but the Mother Prioress would never yield to these requests. |A soul of such mettle,| she would say, |ought not to be dealt with as a child; dispensations are not meant for her. Let her be, for God sustains her. Besides, if she is really ill, she should come and tell me herself.|
But it was always a principle with Therese that |We should go to the end of our strength before we complain.| How many times did she assist at Matins suffering from vertigo or violent headaches! |I am able to walk,| she would say, |and so I ought to be at my duty.| And, thanks to this undaunted energy, she performed acts that were heroic.
It was with difficulty that her delicate stomach accustomed itself to the frugal fare of the Carmel. Certain things made her ill, but she knew so well how to hide this, that no one ever suspected it. Her neighbour at table said that she had tried in vain to discover the dishes that she preferred, and the kitchen Sisters, finding her so easy to please, invariably served her with what was left. It was only during her last illness, when she was ordered to say what disagreed with her, that her mortifications came to light. |When Jesus wishes us to suffer,| she said at that time, |there can be no evading it. And so, when Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart was procuratrix, she endeavoured to look after me with a mother's tenderness. To all appearances, I was well cared for, and yet what mortifications did she not impose upon me! for she served me according to her own taste, which was entirely opposed to mine.|
Therese's spirit of sacrifice was far-reaching; she eagerly sought what was painful and disagreeable, as her rightful share. All that God asked she gave Him without hesitation or reserve.
|During my postulancy,| she said, |it cost me a great deal to perform certain exterior penances, customary in our convents, but I never yielded to these repugnances; it seemed to me that the image of my Crucified Lord looked at me with beseeching eyes, and begged these sacrifices.|
Her vigilance was so keen, that she never left unobserved any little recommendations of the Mother Prioress, or any of the small rules which render the religious life so meritorious. One of the old nuns, having remarked her extraordinary fidelity on this point, ever afterwards regarded her as a Saint. Soeur Therese was accustomed to say that she never did any great penances. That was because her fervour counted as nothing the few that were allowed her. It happened, however, that she fell ill through wearing for too long a time a small iron Cross, studded with sharp points, that pressed into her flesh. |Such a trifle would not have caused this,| she said afterwards, |if God had not wished thus to make me understand that the greater austerities of the Saints are not meant for me -- nor for the souls that walk in the path of 'spiritual childhood.'|
. . . . . . .
|The souls that are the most dear to My Father,| Our Lord once said to Saint Teresa, |are those He tries the most, and the greatness of their trials is the measure of His Love.| Therese was a soul most dear to God, and He was about to fill up the measure of His Love by making her pass through a veritable martyrdom. The reader will remember the call on Good Friday, April 3, 1896, when, to use her own expression, she heard the |distant murmur which announced the approach of the Bridegroom|; but she had still to endure long months of pain before the blessed hour of her deliverance.
On the morning of that Good Friday, she made so little of the haemorrhage of the previous night, that Mother Prioress allowed her to practise all the penances prescribed by the Rule for that day. In the afternoon, a novice saw her cleaning windows. Her face was livid, and, in spite of her great energy, it was evident that her strength was almost spent. Seeing her fatigue, the novice, who loved her dearly, burst into tears, and begged leave to obtain her some little reprieve. But the young novice-mistress strictly forbade her, saying that she was quite able to bear this slight fatigue on the day on which Jesus had suffered and died.
Soon a persistent cough made the Mother Prioress feel anxious; she ordered Soeur Therese a more strengthening diet, and the cough ceased for some time. |Truly sickness is too slow a liberator,| exclaimed our dear little Sister, |I can only rely upon Love.|
She was strongly tempted to respond to the appeal of the Carmelites of Hanoi, who much desired to have her, and began a novena to the Venerable Theophane Venard to obtain her cure, but alas! that novena proved but the beginning of a more serious phase of her malady.
Like her Divine Master, she passed through the world doing good; like Him, she had been forgotten and unknown, and now, still following in His Footsteps, she was to climb the hill of Calvary. Accustomed to see her always suffering, yet always joyous and brave, Mother Prioress, doubtless inspired by God, allowed her to take part in the Community exercises, some of which tired her extremely. At night, she would courageously mount the stairs alone, pausing at each step to take breath. It was with difficulty that she reached her cell, and then in so exhausted a state, that sometimes, as she avowed later, it took her quite an hour to undress. After all this exertion it was upon a hard pallet that she took her rest. Her nights, too, were very bad, and when asked if she would not like someone to be near her in her hours of pain, she replied: |Oh, no! on the contrary, I am only too glad to be in a cell away from my Sisters, that I may not be heard. I am content to suffer alone -- as soon as I am pitied and loaded with attentions, my happiness leaves me.|
What strength of soul these words betray! Where we find sorrow she found joy. What to us is to hard to bear -- being overlooked and ignored by creatures -- became to her a source of delight. And her Divine Spouse knew well how to provide that bitter joy she found so sweet. Painful remedies had often to be applied. One day, when she had suffered from them more than usual, she was resting in her cell during recreation, and overheard a Sister in the kitchen speaking of her thus: |Soeur Therese will not live long, and really sometimes I wonder what our Mother Prioress will find to say about her when she dies. She will be sorely puzzled, for this little Sister, amiable as she is, has certainly never done anything worth speaking about.| The Infirmarian, who had also overheard the remark, turned to Therese and said: |If you relied upon the opinion of creatures you would indeed be disillusioned today.| |The opinion of creatures!| she replied; |happily God has given me the grace to be absolutely indifferent to that. Let me tell you something which showed me, once and for all, how much it is worth. A few days after my Clothing, I went to our dear Mother's room, and one of the Sisters who happened to be there, said on seeing me: 'Dear Mother, this novice certainly does you credit. How well she looks! I hope she may be able to observe the Rule for many years to come.' I was feeling decidedly pleased at this compliment when another Sister came in, and, looking at me, said: 'Poor little Soeur Therese, how very tired you seem! You quite alarm me. If you do not soon improve, I am afraid you will not be able to keep the Rule very long.' I was then only sixteen, but this little incident made such an impression on me, that I never again set store on the varying opinion of creatures.|
On another occasion someone remarked: |It is said that you have never suffered much.| Smiling, she pointed to a glass containing medicine of a bright red colour. |You see this little glass?| she said. |One would suppose that it contained a most delicious draught, whereas, in reality, it is more bitter than anything else I take. It is the image of my life. To others it has been all rose colour; they have thought that I continually drank of a most delicious wine; yet to me it has been full of bitterness. I say bitterness, and yet my life has not been a bitter one, for I have learned to find my joy and sweetness in all that is bitter.|
|You are suffering very much just now, are you not?| |Yes, but then I have so longed to suffer.| |How it distresses us to see you in such pain, and to think that it may increase!| said her novices.
|Oh! Do not grieve about me. I have reached a point where I can no longer suffer, because all suffering is become so sweet. Besides, it is quite a mistake to trouble yourselves as to what I may still have to undergo. It is like meddling with God's work. We who run in the way of Love must never allow ourselves to be disturbed by anything. If I did not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for me to be patient; but I only look at the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future. When we yield to discouragement or despair, it is usually because we think too much about the past and the future. But pray much for me, for it is often just when I cry to Heaven for help that I feel most abandoned.|
|How do you manage not to give way to discouragement at such times?| |I turn to God and all His Saints, and thank them notwithstanding; I believe they want to see how far my trust may extend. But the words of Job have not entered my heart in vain: 'Even if God should kill me, I would still trust in Him.' I own it has taken a long time to arrive at this degree of self-abandonment; but I have reached it now, and it is the Lord Himself Who has brought me there.|
Another time she said: |Our Lord's Will fills my heart to the brim, and hence, if aught else is added, it cannot penetrate to any depth, but, like oil on the surface of limpid waters, glides easily across. If my heart were not already brimming over, and must needs be filled by the feelings of joy and sadness that alternate so rapidly, then indeed would it be flooded by a wave of bitter pain; but these quick-succeeding changes scarcely ruffle the surface of my soul, and in its depths there reigns a peace that nothing can disturb.|
And yet her soul was enveloped in thick darkness, and her temptations against Faith, ever conquered but ever returning, were there to rob her of all feeling of happiness at the thought of her approaching death. |Were it not for this trial, which is impossible to understand,| she would say, |I think I should die of joy at the prospect of soon leaving this earth.|
By this trial, the Divine Master wished to put the finishing touches to her purification, and thus enable her not only to walk with rapid steps, but to run in her little way of confidence and abandonment. Her words repeatedly proved this. |I desire neither death nor life. Were Our Lord to offer me my choice, I would not choose. I only will what He wills; it is what He does that I love. I do not fear the last struggle, nor any pains -- however great -- my illness may bring. God has always been my help. He has led me by the hand from my earliest childhood, and on Him I rely. My agony may reach the furthest limits, but I am convinced He will never forsake me.|
Such confidence in God, of necessity stirred the fury of the devil -- of him who, at life's close, tries every ruse to sow the seeds of despair in the hearts of the dying.
|Last night I was seized with a terrible feeling of anguish,| she confessed to Mother Agnes of Jesus on one occasion; |I was lost in darkness, and from out of it came an accursed voice: 'Are you certain God loves you? Has He Himself told you so? The opinion of creatures will not justify you in His sight.' These thoughts had long tortured me, when your little note, like a message from Heaven, was brought to me. You recalled to me, dear Mother, the special graces Jesus had lavished upon me, and, as though you had had a revelation concerning my trial, you assured me I was deeply loved by God, and was on the eve of receiving from His Hands my eternal crown. Immediately peace and joy were restored to my heart. Yet the thought came to me, 'It is my little Mother's affection that makes her write these words.' Straightway I felt inspired to take up the Gospels, and, opening the book at random, I lighted on a passage which had hitherto escaped me: 'He whom God hath sent speaketh the Words of God, for God doth not give the Spirit by measure.' Then I fell asleep fully consoled. It was you, dear Mother, whom the Good God sent me, and I must believe you, because you speak the Words of God.|
For several days, during the month of August, Therese remained, so to speak, beside herself, and implored that prayers might be offered for her. She had never before been seen in this state, and in her inexpressible anguish she kept repeating: |Oh! how necessary it is to pray for the agonising! If one only knew!|
One night she entreated the Infirmarian to sprinkle her bed with Holy Water, saying: |I am besieged by the devil. I do not see him, but I feel him; he torments me and holds me with a grip of iron, that I may not find one crumb of comfort; he augments my woes, that I may be driven to despair. . . . And I cannot pray. I can only look at Our Blessed Lady and say: 'Jesus!' How needful is that prayer we use at Compline: 'Procul recedant somnia et noctium phantasmata!' ('Free us from the phantoms of the night.') Something mysterious is happening within me. I am not suffering for myself, but for some other soul, and satan is angry.| The Infirmarian, startled, lighted a blessed candle, and the spirit of darkness fled, never to return; but the sufferer remained to the end in a state of extreme anguish.
One day, while she was contemplating the beautiful heavens, some one said to her: |soon your home will be there, beyond the blue sky. How lovingly you gaze at it!| She only smiled, but afterwards she said to the Mother Prioress: |Dear Mother, the Sisters do not realise my sufferings. Just now, when looking at the sky, I merely admired the beauty of the material heaven -- the true Heaven seems more than ever closed against me. At first their words troubled me, but an interior voice whispered: 'Yes, you were looking to Heaven out of love. Since your soul is entirely delivered up to love, all your actions, even the most indifferent, are marked with this divine seal.' At once I was consoled.|
In spite of the darkness which enveloped her, her Divine Saviour sometimes left the door of her prison ajar. Those were moments in which her soul lost itself in transports of confidence and love. Thus it happened that on a certain day, when walking in the garden supported by one of her own sisters, she stopped at the charming spectacle of a hen sheltering its pretty little ones under its wing. Her eyes filled with tears, and, turning to her companion, she said: |I cannot remain here any longer, let us go in!| And even when she reached her cell, her tears continued to fall, and it was some time before she could speak. At last she looked at her sister with a heavenly expression, and said: |I was thinking of Our Lord, and the beautiful comparison He chose in order to make us understand His ineffable tenderness. This is what He has done for me all the days of my life. He has completely hidden me under His Wing. I cannot express all that has just stirred my heart; it is well for me that God conceals Himself, and lets me see the effects of His Mercy but rarely, and as it were from 'behind the lattices.' Were it not so I could never bear such sweetness.|
. . . . . . .
Disconsolate at the prospect of losing their treasure, the Community began a novena to Our Lady of Victories on June 5, 1897, in the fervent hope that she would once again miraculously raise the drooping Little Flower. But her answer was the same as that given by the blessed Martyr, Theophane Venard, and they were forced to accept with generosity the bitterness of the coming separation.
At the beginning of July, her state became very serious, and she was at last removed to the Infirmary. Seeing her empty cell, and knowing she would never return to it, Mother Agnes of Jesus said to her: |When you are no longer with us, how sad I shall feel when I look at this cell!|
|For consolation, little Mother, you can think how happy I am up there, and remember that much of my happiness was acquired in that little cell; for,| she added, raising her beautiful eyes to Heaven, |I have suffered so much there, and I should have been happy to die there.|
As she entered the Infirmary she looked towards the miraculous statue of Our Lady, which had been brought thither. It would be impossible to describe that look. |What is it you see?| said her sister Marie, the witness of her miraculous cure as a child. And Therese answered: |Never has she seemed to me so beautiful . . . but to-day it is the statue, whereas that other day, as you well know, it was not the statue!| And from that time she often received similar consolations.
One evening she exclaimed: |Oh, how I love Our Blessed Lady! Had I been a Priest, how I would have sung her praises! She is spoken of as unapproachable, whereas she should be represented as easy of imitation. . . . She is more Mother than Queen. I have heard it said that her splendour eclipses that of all the Saints as the rising sun makes all the stars disappear. It sounds so strange. That a Mother should take away the glory of her children! I think quite the reverse. I believe that she will greatly increase the splendour of the elect . . . Our Mother Mary! Oh! how simple her life must have been!| and, continuing her discourse, she drew such a sweet and delightful picture of the Holy Family that all present were lost in admiration.
A very heavy cross awaited her before going to join her Spouse. From August 16 to September 30, the happy day of her death, she was unable to receive Holy Communion, because of her continual sickness. Few have hungered for the Bread of Angels like this seraph of earth. Again and again during that last winter of her life, after nights of intolerable pain, she rose at early morn to partake of the Manna of Heaven, and she thought no price too heavy to pay for the bliss of feeding upon God. Before depriving her altogether of this Heavenly Food, Our Lord often visited her on her bed of pain. Her Communion on July 16, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was specially touching. During the previous night she composed some verses which were to be sung before Communion.
Thou know'st the baseness of my soul, O Lord, Yet fearest not to stoop and enter me. Come to my heart, O Sacrament adored! Come to my heart . . . it craveth but for Thee! And when Thou comest, straightway let me die Of very love for Thee; this boon impart! Oh, hearken Jesus, to my suppliant cry: Come to my heart!
In the morning, when the Holy Viaticum was carried to the Infirmary, the cloisters were thickly strewn with wild flowers and rose-petals. A young Priest, who was about to say his first Mass that day in the Chapel of the Carmel, bore the Blessed Sacrament to the dying Sister; and at her desire, Sister Mary of the Eucharist -- whose voice was exceptionally sweet -- sang the following couplet:
Sweet martyrdom! to die of love's keen fire:
The martyrdom of which my heart is fain!
Hasten, ye Cherubim, to tune your lyre;
I shall not linger long in exile's pain!
. . . . . . .
Fulfill my dream, O Jesus, since I sigh
Of love to die!
A few days later Therese grew worse, and on July 30 she received Extreme Unction. Radiant with delight the little Victim of Love said to us: |The door of my dark prison is ajar. I am steeped in joy, especially since our Father Superior has assured me that to-day my soul is like unto that of a little child after Baptism.|
No doubt she thought she was quickly to join the white-robed band of the Holy Innocents. She little knew that two long months of martyrdom had still to run their course. |Dear Mother,| she said, |I entreat you, give me leave to die. Let me offer my life for such and such an intention| -- naming it to the Prioress. And when the permission was refused, she replied: |Well, I know that just at this moment Our Lord has such a longing for a tiny bunch of grapes -- which no one will give Him -- that He will perforce have to come and steal it. . . . I do not ask anything; this would be to stray from my path of self-surrender. I only beseech Our Lady to remind her Jesus of the title of Thief, which He takes to Himself in the Gospels, so that He may not forget to come and carry me away.|
. . . . . . .
One day Soeur Therese took an ear of corn from a sheaf they had brought her. It was so laden with grain that it bent on its stalk, and after gazing upon it for some time she said to the Mother Prioress: |Mother, that ear of corn is the image of my soul. God has loaded it with graces for me and for many others. And it is my dearest wish ever to bend beneath the weight of God's gifts, acknowledging that all comes from Him.|
She was right. Her soul was indeed laden with graces, and it was easy to discern the Spirit of God speaking His praises out of the mouth of that innocent child.
Had not this Spirit of Truth already dictated these words to the great Teresa of Avila:
|Let those souls who have reached to perfect union with God hold themselves in high esteem, with a humble and holy presumption. Let them keep unceasingly before their eyes the remembrance of the good things they have received, and beware of the thought that they are practising humility in not recognising the gifts of God. Is it not clear that the constant remembrance of gifts bestowed serves to increase the love of the giver? How can he who ignores the riches he possesses, spend them generously upon others?|
But the above was not the only occasion on which the |little Therese of Lisieux| gave utterance to words that proved prophetic. In the month of April, 1895, while she was still in excellent health, she said in confidence to one of the older nuns: |I shall die soon. I do not say that it will be in a few months, but in two or three years at most; I know it because of what is taking place in my soul.|
The novices betrayed surprise when she read their inmost thoughts. |This is my secret,| she said to them: |I never reprimand you without first invoking Our Blessed Lady, and asking her to inspire me as to what will be most for your good, and I am often astonished myself at the things I teach you. At such times I feel that I make no mistake, and that it is Jesus Who speak by my lips.|
During her illness one of her sisters had experienced some moments of acute distress, amounting almost to discouragement, at the thought of the inevitable parting. Immediately afterwards she went to the Infirmary, but was careful not to let any sign of grief be seen. What was her surprise when Therese, in a sad and serious tone, thus addressed her: |We ought not to weep like those who have no hope.|
One of the Mothers, having come to visit her, did her a trifling service. |How happy I should be,| thought the Mother, |if this Angel would only say: 'I will repay you in Heaven!' At that instant Soeur Therese, turning to her, said: |Mother, I will repay you in Heaven!|
But more surprising than all, was her consciousness of the mission for which Our Lord had destined her. The veil which hides the future seemed lifted, and more than once she revealed to us its secrets, in prophecies which have already been realised.
|I have never given the Good God aught but love; it is with Love He will repay.
AFTER MY DEATH I WILL LET FALL A SHOWER OF ROSES.|
At another time she interrupted a Sister, who was speaking to her of the happiness of Heaven, by the sublime words: |It is not that which attracts me.|
|And what attracts you?| asked the other. |Oh! it is Love! To love, to be beloved, and to return to earth to win love for our Love!|
One evening, she welcomed Mother Agnes of Jesus with an extraordinary expression of joy: |Mother!| she said, |some notes from a concert far away have just reached my ears, and have made me think that soon I shall be listening to the wondrous melodies of Paradise. The thought, however, gave me but a moment's joy -- one hope alone makes my heart beat fast: the Love that I shall receive and the Love I shall be able to give!
|I feel that my mission is soon to begin -- my mission to make others love God as I love Him . . . to each souls my little way . . .
I WILL SPEND MY HEAVEN IN DOING GOOD UPON EARTH.
Nor is this impossible, since from the very heart of the Beatific Vision, the Angels keep watch over us. No, there can be no rest for me until the end of the world. But when the Angel shall have said: 'Time is no more!' then I shall rest, then I shall be able to rejoice, because the number of the elect will be complete.|
|And what is this little way that you would teach to souls?|
|IT IS THE WAY OF SPIRITUAL CHILDHOOD, THE WAY OF TRUST AND ABSOLUTE SELF-SURRENDER.
I want to point out to them the means that I have always found so perfectly successful, to tell them that there is but one thing to do here below: we must offer Jesus the flowers of little sacrifices and win Him by a caress. That is how I have won Him, and that is why I shall be made so welcome.|
|Should I guide you wrongly by my little way of love,| she said to a novice, |do not fear that I shall allow you to continue therein; I should soon come back to the earth, and tell you to take another road. If I do not return, then believe in the truth of these my words: We can never have too much confidence in the Good God, He is so mighty, so merciful. As we hope in Him so shall we receive.|
On the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a novice said to her: |I think that if you were to die to-morrow, after Holy Communion, I should be quite consoled -- it would be such a beautiful death!| Therese answered quickly: |Die after Holy Communion! Upon a great feast! Nay, not so. In my 'little way' everything is most ordinary; all that I do, little souls must be able to do likewise.|
And to one of her missionary brothers she wrote: |What draws me to my Heavenly Home is the summons of my Lord, together with the hope that at length I shall love Him as my heart desires, and shall be able to make Him loved by a multitude of souls who will bless Him throughout eternity.|
And in another letter to China: |I trust fully that I shall not remain idle in Heaven; my desire is to continue my work for the Church and for souls. I ask this of God, and I am convinced He will hear my prayer. You see that if I quit the battle-field so soon, it is not from a selfish desire of repose. For a long time now, suffering has been my Heaven here upon earth, and I can hardly conceive how I shall become acclimatised to a land where joy is unmixed with sorrow. Jesus will certainly have to work a complete change in my soul -- else I could never support the ecstasies of Paradise.|
It was quite true, suffering had become her Heaven upon earth -- she welcomed it as we do happiness. |When I suffer much,| she would say, |when something painful or disagreeable happens to me, instead of a melancholy look, I answer by a smile. At first I did not always succeed, but now it has become a habit which I am glad to have acquired.|
A certain Sister entertained doubts concerning the patience of Therese. One day, during a visit, she remarked that the invalid's face wore an expression of unearthly joy, and she sought to know the reason. |It is because the pain is so acute just now,| Therese replied; |I have always forced myself to love suffering and to give it a glad welcome.| |Why are you so bright this morning?| asked Mother Agnes of Jesus. |Because of two little crosses. Nothing gives me 'little joys' like 'little crosses.'| And another time: |You have had many trials to-day?| |Yes, but I love them! . . . I love all the Good God sends me!| |Your sufferings are terrible!| |No -- they are not terrible: can a little Victim of Love find anything terrible that is sent by her Spouse? Each moment He sends me what I am able to bear, and nothing more, and if He increase the pain, my strength is increased as well. But I could never ask for greater sufferings -- I am too little a soul. They would then be of my own choice. I should have to bear them all without Him, and I have never been able to do anything when left to myself.|
Thus spoke that wise and prudent Virgin on her deathbed, and her lamp, filled to the brim with the oil of virtue, burned brightly to the end. If, as the Holy Spirit reminds us in the Book of Proverbs: |A man's doctrine is proved by his patience,| those who have heard her may well believe in her doctrine, for she has proved it by a patience no test could overcome.
At each visit the doctor expressed his admiration. |If only you knew what she has to endure! I have never seen any one suffer so intensely with such a look of supernatural joy. . . . I shall not be able to cure her; she was not made for this earth.| In view of her extreme weakness, he ordered some strengthening remedies. Therese was at first distressed because of their cost, but she afterwards admitted: |I am no longer troubled at having to take those expensive remedies, for I have read that when they were given to St. Gertrude, she was gladdened by the thought that it would redound to the good of our benefactors, since Our Lord Himself has said: 'Whatever you do to the least of My little ones, you do unto Me.'| |I am convinced that medicines are powerless to cure me,| she added, |but I have made a covenant with God that the poor missionaries who have neither time nor means to take care of themselves may profit thereby.|
She was much moved by the constant gifts of flowers made to her by her friends outside the Convent, and again by the visits of a sweet little redbreast that loved to play about her bed. She saw in these things the Hand of God. |Mother, I feel deeply the many touching proofs of God's Love for me. I am laden with them . . . nevertheless, I continue in the deepest gloom! . . . I suffer much . . . very much! and yet my state is one of profound peace. All my longings have been realised . . . I am full of confidence.|
Shortly afterwards she told me this touching little incident: |One evening, during the 'Great Silence,' the Infirmarian brought me a hot-water bottle for my feet, and put tincture of iodine on my chest. I was in a burning fever, and parched with thirst, and, whilst submitting to these remedies, I could not help saying to Our Lord: 'My Jesus, Thou seest I am already burning, and they have brought me more heat and fire. Oh! if they had brought me even half a glass of water, what a comfort it would have been! . . . My Jesus! Thy little child is so thirsty. But she is glad to have this opportunity of resembling Thee more closely, and thus helping Thee to save souls.' The Infirmarian soon left me, and I did not expect to see her again until the following morning. What was my surprise when she returned a few minutes later with a refreshing drink! 'It has just struck me that you may be thirsty,' she said, 'so I shall bring you something every evening.' I looked at her astounded, and when I was once more alone, I melted into tears. Oh! how good Jesus is! how tender and loving! How easy it is to reach His Heart!|
. . . . . . .
On September 6, the little Spouse of Jesus received a touching proof of the loving thought of His Sacred Heart. She had frequently expressed a wish to possess a relic of her special patron, the Venerable Theophane Venard, but as her desire was not realised, she said no more. She was quite overcome, therefore, when Mother Prioress brought her the longed-for treasure -- received that very day. She kissed it repeatedly, and would not consent to part with it.
It may be asked why she was so devoted to this young Martyr. She herself explained the reason in an affectionate interview with her own sisters: |Theophane Venard is a little saint; his life was not marked by anything extraordinary. He had an ardent devotion to Our Immaculate Mother and a tender love of his own family.| Dwelling on these words she added: |And I, too, love my family with a tender love; I fail to understand those Saints who do not share my feelings. As a parting gift I have copied for you some passages from his last letters home. His soul and mine have many points of resemblance, and his words do but re-echo my thoughts.|
We give here a copy of that letter, which one might have believed was composed by Therese herself:
|I can find nothing on earth that can make me truly happy; the desires of my heart are too vast, and nothing of what the world calls happiness can satisfy it. Time for me will soon be no more, my thoughts are fixed on Eternity. My heart is full of peace, like a tranquil lake or a cloudless sky. I do not regret this life on earth. I thirst for the waters of Life Eternal.
|Yet a little while and my soul will have quitted this earth, will have finished her exile, will have ended her combat. I go to Heaven. I am about to enter the Abode of the Blessed -- to see what the eye hath never seen, to hear what the ear hath never heard, to enjoy those things the heart of man hath not conceived . . . I have reached the hour so coveted by us all. It is indeed true that Our Lord chooses the little ones to confound the great ones of this earth. I do not rely upon my own strength but upon Him Who, on the Cross, vanquished the powers of hell.
|I am a spring flower which the Divine Master culls for His pleasure. We are all flowers, planted on this earth, and God will gather us in His own good time -- some sooner, some later . . . I, little flower of one day, am the first to be gathered! But we shall meet again in Paradise, where lasting joy will be our portion.
|Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus, using the words of the angelic martyr -- Theophane Venard.|
Toward the end of September, when something was repeated to her that had been said at recreation, concerning the responsibility of those who have care of souls, she seemed to revive a little and gave utterance to these beautiful words: |To him that is little, mercy is granted. It is possible to remain little even in the most responsible position, and is it not written that, at the last day, 'the Lord will arise to save the meek and lowly ones of the earth'? He does not say 'to judge,' but 'to save!'|
As time went on, the tide of suffering rose higher and higher, and she became so weak, that she was unable to make the slightest movement without assistance. Even to hear anyone whisper increased her discomfort; and the fever and oppression were so extreme that it was with the greatest difficulty she was able to articulate a word. And yet a sweet smile was always on her lips. Her only fear was lest she should give her Sisters any extra trouble, and until two days before her death she would never allow any one to remain with her during the night. However, in spite of her entreaties, the Infirmarian would visit her from time to time. On one occasion she found Therese with hands joined and eyes raised to Heaven. |What are you doing?| she asked; |you ought to try and go to sleep.| |I cannot, Sister, I am suffering too much, so I am praying. . . .| |And what do you say to Jesus?| |I say nothing -- I only love Him!|
|Oh! how good God is!| . . . she sometimes exclaimed. |Truly He must be very good to give me strength to bear all I have to suffer.| One day she said to the Mother Prioress: |Mother, I would like to make known to you the state of my soul; but I cannot, I feel too much overcome just now.| In the evening Therese sent her these lines, written in pencil with a trembling hand:
|O my God! how good Thou art to the little Victim of Thy Merciful Love! Now, even when Thou joinest these bodily pains to those of my soul, I cannot bring myself to say: 'The anguish of death hath encompassed me.' I rather cry out in my gratitude: 'I have gone down into the valley of the shadow of death, but I fear no evil, because Thou, O Lord, art with me.'|
Her little Mother said to her: |Some think that you are afraid of death.| |That may easily come to pass,| she answered; |I do not rely on my own feelings, for I know how frail I am. It will be time enough to bear that cross if it comes, meantime I wish to rejoice in my present happiness. When the Chaplain asked me if I was resigned to die, I answered: 'Father, I need rather to be resigned to live -- I feel nothing but joy at the thought of death.' Do not be troubled, dear Mother, if I suffer much and show no sign of happiness at the end. Did not Our Lord Himself die 'a Victim of Love,' and see how great was His Agony!|
. . . . . . .
At last dawned the eternal day. It was Thursday, September 30, 1897. In the morning, the sweet Victim, her eyes fixed on Our Lady's statue, spoke thus of her last night on earth: |Oh! with what fervour I have prayed to her! . . . And yet it has been pure agony, without a ray of consolation. . . . Earth's air is failing me: when shall I breathe the air of Heaven?|
For weeks she had been unable to raise herself in bed, but, at half-past two in the afternoon, she sat up and exclaimed: |Dear Mother, the chalice is full to overflowing! I could never have believed that it was possible to suffer so intensely. . . . I can only explain it by my extreme desire to save souls. . . .| And a little while after: |Yes, all that I have written about my thirst for suffering is really true! I do not regret having surrendered myself to Love.|
She repeated these last words several times. A little later she added: |Mother, prepare me to die well.| The good Mother Prioress encouraged her with these words: |My child, you are quite ready to appear before God, for you have always understood the virtue of humility.| Then, in striking words, Therese bore witness to herself:
|Yes, I feel it; my soul has ever sought the truth. . . . I have understood humility of heart!|
. . . . . . .
At half-past four, her agony began -- the agony of this |Victim of Divine Love.| When the Community gathered round her, she thanked them with the sweetest smile, and then, completely given over to love and suffering, the Crucifix clasped in her failing hands, she entered on the final combat. The sweat of death lay heavy on her brow . . . she trembled . . . but, as a pilot, when close to harbour, is not dismayed by the fury of the storm, so this soul, strong in faith, saw close at hand the beacon-lights of Heaven, and valiantly put forth every effort to reach the shore.
As the convent bells rang the evening Angelus, she fixed an inexpressible look upon the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, the Star of the Sea. Was it not the moment to repeat her beautiful prayer:
|O thou who camest to smile on me in the morn of my life, come once again and smile, Mother, for now it is eventide!|
A few minutes after seven, turning to the Prioress, the poor little Martyr asked: |Mother, is it not the agony? . . . am I not going to die?| |Yes, my child, it is the agony, but Jesus perhaps wills that it be prolonged for some hours.| In a sweet and plaintive voice she replied: |Ah, very well then . . . very well . . . I do not wish to suffer less!|
Then, looking at her crucifix:
|Oh! . . . I love Him! . . . My God, I . . . love . . . Thee!|
These were her last words. She had scarcely uttered them when, to our great surprise, she sank down quite suddenly, her head inclined a little to the right, in the attitude of the Virgin Martyrs offering themselves to the sword; or rather, as a Victim of Love, awaiting from the Divine Archer the fiery shaft, by which she longs to die.
Suddenly she raised herself, as though called by a mysterious voice; and opening her eyes, which shone with unutterable happiness and peace, fixed her gaze a little above the statue of Our Lady. Thus she remained for about the space of a Credo, when her blessed soul, now become the prey of the |Divine Eagle,| was borne away to the heights of Heaven.
. . . . . . .
A few days before her death, this little Saint had said: |The death of Love which I so much desire is that of Jesus upon the Cross.| Her prayer was fully granted. Darkness enveloped her, and her soul was steeped in anguish. And yet, may we not apply to her also that sublime prophecy of St. John of the Cross, referring to souls consumed by the fire of Divine Love: |They die Victims of the onslaughts of Love, in raptured ecstasies -- like the swan, whose song grows sweeter as death draws nigh. Wherefore the Psalmist declared: 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints.' For then it is that the rivers of love burst forth from the soul and are whelmed in the Ocean of Divine Love.|
No sooner had her spotless soul taken its flight than the joy of that last rapture imprinted itself on her brow, and a radiant smile illumined her face. We placed a palm-branch in her hand; and the lilies and roses that adorned her in death were figures of her white robe of baptism made red by her Martyrdom of Love.
On the Saturday and Sunday a large crowd passed before the grating of the nuns' chapel, to gaze on the mortal remains of the |Little Flower of Jesus.| Hundreds of medals and rosaries were brought to touch the |Little Queen| as she lay in the triumphant beauty of her last sleep.
. . . . . . .
On October 4, the day of the funeral, there gathered in the Chapel of the Carmel a goodly company of Priests. The honour was surely due to one who had prayed so earnestly for those called to that sacred office. After a last solemn blessing, this grain of priceless wheat was cast into the furrow by the hands of Holy Mother Church.
Who shall tell how many ripened ears have sprung forth since, how many the sheaves that are yet to come? |Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat, falling into the ground, die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.| Once more the word of the Divine Reaper has been magnificently fulfilled.
THE PRIORESS OF THE CARMEL.
Mother Mary of Gonzaga died Dec.17, 1904, at the age of 71. Mother Agnes of Jesus (Pauline) was at that time Prioress. The former -- herself of the line of St. Antony of Padua -- recognized in Soeur Therese |an heroic soul, filled with holiness, and capable of becoming one day an excellent Prioress.| With this end in view, she trained her with a strictness for which the young Saint was most grateful. In the arms of Mother Mary of Gonzaga the |Little Flower of Jesus| was welcomed to the Carmel, and in those arms she died -- |happy,| she declared, |not to have in that hour as Superioress her 'little Mother,' in order the better to exercise her spirit of faith in authority.| [Ed.]
As will be remembered, this was Marie, her eldest sister. [Ed.]
The Blessed Theophane Venard was born at St. Loup, in the diocese of Poitiers, on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady, Nov.21, 1829. He was martyred at Kecho, Tong-King, on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, Feb.2, 1861, at the age of 32. A long and delightful correspondence with his family, begun in his college days and completed from his |cage| at Kecho, reveals a kinship of poesy as well as of sanctity and of the love of home, between the two |spring flowers.| The beauty of his soul was so visible in his boyish face that he was spared all torture during his two months in the |cage.| In 1909, the year in which Therese became |Servant of God| by the commencement of the Episcopal Process, her patron received the honours of Beatification. Another child of France -- Joan, its |Martyr-Maid| -- whose praises have been sung in affectionate verse by the Saints of St. Loup and Lisieux, was beatified that same year. [Ed.]
An allusion to the obituary notice sent to each of the French Carmels when a Carmelite nun dies in that country. In the case of those who die in the odour of sanctity these notices sometimes run to considerable length. Four notices issued from the Carmel of Lisieux are of great interest to the clients of Soeur Therese, and are in course of publication at the Orphans' Press, Rochdale; those of the Carmel's saintly Foundress, Mother Genevieve of St. Teresa, whose death is referred to in Chapter VIII; Mother Mary of Gonzaga, the Prioress of Therese; Sister Mary of the Eucharist (Marie Guerin), the cousin of Therese (Chapter III); and most interesting of all, the long sketch, partly autobiographical, of Mother Mary of St. Angelus (Marie Ange), the |trophy of Therese,| brought by her intercession to the Carmel in 1902 -- where the writer made her acquaintance in the following spring; she became Prioress in 1908, dying eighteen months later in the odour of sanctity, aged only 28. [Ed.]
Cf. Job 13:15.
When asked before her death how they should pray to her in Heaven, Soeur Therese, with her wonted simplicity, made answer: |You will call me 'Little Therese' -- petite Therese.| And at Gallipoli, on the occasion of her celebrated apparition in the Carmel there, when the Prioress, taking her to be St. Teresa of Avila, addressed her as |our holy Mother,| the visitor, adopting her then official title, replied: -- |Nay, I am not our holy Mother, I am the Servant of God, Soeur Therese of Lisieux.| This, her own name of Soeur Therese, has been retained in the present edition, unless where it was advisable to set down her name in full -- Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. The name of the |Little Flower,| borrowed by her from the Blessed Theophane Venard, and used so extensively in the pages of her manuscript, is the one by which she is best known in English-speaking lands. [Ed.]
From the last poem written by Soeur Therese.
John 12:24, 25.
COUNSELS AND REMINISCENCES OF SOEUR THERESE,
THE LITTLE FLOWER OF JESUS
Most of what follows has been gathered from the conversations of Soeur Therese with her novices. Her advice cannot but prove helpful to souls within the cloister, and likewise to many in the world who may be attracted by her simple and easy little way to God.
* * * * * *
One of the novices, greatly discouraged at the thought of her imperfections, tells us that her mistress spoke to her as follows:
|You make me think of a little child that is learning to stand but does not yet know how to walk. In his desire to reach the top of the stairs to find his mother, he lifts his little foot to climb the first step. It is all in vain, and at each renewed effort he falls. Well, be like that little child. Always keep lifting your foot to climb the ladder of holiness, and do not imagine that you can mount even the first step. All God asks of you is good will. From the top of the ladder He looks lovingly upon you, and soon, touched by your fruitless efforts, He will Himself come down, and, taking you in His Arms, will carry you to His Kingdom never again to leave Him. But should you cease to raise your foot, you will be left for long on the earth.|
* * * * * *
|The only way to advance rapidly in the path of love is to remain always very little. That is what I did, and now I can sing with our holy Father, St. John of the Cross:
'Then I abased myself so low, so very low, That I ascended to such heights, such heights indeed, That I did overtake the prey I chased!'|
* * * * * *
Under a temptation which seemed to me irresistible, I said to her: |This time, I cannot surmount it.| She replied: |Why seek to surmount it? Rather pass beneath. It is all well for great souls to soar above the clouds when the storm rages; we have simply to suffer the showers. What does it matter if we get wet? We shall dry ourselves in the sunshine of love.
|It recalls a little incident of my childhood. One day a horse was standing in front of the garden gate, and preventing us from getting through. My companions talked to him and tried to make him move off, but while they were still talking I quietly slipped between his legs . . . Such is the advantage of remaining small.|
* * * * * *
Our Lord said to the mother of the sons of Zebedee: 'To sit on my right or left hand is for them for whom it is prepared by my Father.' I imagine that these chosen places, which have been refused alike to great Saints and Martyrs, will be reserved for little children; and did not David foretell it when he said, that 'the little Benjamin will preside amidst the assemblies of the Saints.'|
* * * * * *
|You are wrong to find fault with this thing and with that, or to try and make everyone see things as you see them. We desire to be 'as little children,' and little children do not know what is best: to them all seems right. Let us imitate their ways. Besides, there is no merit in doing what reason dictates.|
* * * * * *
|My patrons and my special favourites in Heaven are those who, so to speak, stole it, such as the Holy Innocents and the Good Thief. The great Saints won it by their works; I wish to be like the thieves and to win it by stratagem -- a stratagem of love which will open its gates both to me and to poor sinners. In the Book of Proverbs the Holy Ghost encourages me, for He says: 'Come to me, little one, to learn subtlety!'|
* * * * * *
|What would you do if you could begin over again your religious life?|
|I think I should do as I have already done.|
|Then you do not share the feeling of the hermit who said: 'While a quarter of an hour, or even a breath of life still remains to me, I shall fear the fires of hell even though I should have spent long years in penance'?|
|No, I do not share that fear; I am too small. Little children are not damned.|
|You are ever seeking to be as little children are, but tell us what must be done to obtain that childlike spirit. 'Remaining little' -- what does it mean?|
|'Remaining little' means -- to recognise one's nothingness, to await everything from the Goodness of God, to avoid being too much troubled at our faults; finally, not to worry over amassing spiritual riches, not to be solicitous about anything. Even amongst the poor, while a child is still small, he is given what is necessary; but, once he is grown up, his father will no longer feed him, and tells him to seek work and support himself. Well, it was to avoid hearing this, that I have never wished to grow up, for I feel incapable of earning my livelihood, which is Life Eternal!|
* * * * * *
In imitation of our saintly Mistress I also wished never to grow up; she called me therefore |the little one,| and during a retreat she wrote to me the following notes:
|Do not fear to tell Jesus that you love him, even though you may not feel that love. In this way you will compel Him to come to your aid, and to carry you like a little child who is too weak to walk.
|It is indeed a great source of trial, when everything looks black, but this does not depend entirely on yourself. Do all in your power to detach your heart from earthly cares, especially from creatures; then be assured Our Lord will do the rest. He could not permit you to fall into the abyss. Be comforted, little one! In Heaven everything will no longer look black, but dazzling white. There all will be clothed in the Divine radiance of Our Spouse -- the Lily of the Valley. Together we will follow Him whithersoever He goeth. Meantime we must make good use of this life's brief day. Let us give Our Lord pleasure, let us by self-sacrifice give Him souls! Above all, let us be little -- so little that everyone might tread us underfoot without our even seeming to suffer pain.
|I am not surprised at the failures of the little one; she forgets that in her role of missionary and warrior she ought to forgo all childish consolations. It is wrong to pass one's time in fretting, instead of sleeping on the Heart of Jesus.
|Should the little one fear the dark of the night, or complain at not seeing Him who carries her, let her shut her eyes. It is the one sacrifice God asks. By remaining thus, the dark will cease to terrify, because she will not see it, and before long, peace -- if not joy -- will re-enter her soul.|
* * * * * *
To help me accept a humiliation she confided to me what follows:
|If I had not been received into the Carmel, I would have entered a Refuge, and lived there unknown and despised among the poor 'penitents.' My joy would have been to pass for one, and I would have become an apostle among my companions, telling them my thoughts on the Infinite Mercy of God.|
|But how could you have hidden your innocence from your Confessor?|
|I would have told him that while still in the world I made a general confession, and that it was forbidden me to repeat it.|
* * * * * *
|Oh! When I think of all I have to acquire!|
|Or rather to lose! It is Jesus Who takes upon Himself to fill your soul according as you rid it of imperfections. I see clearly that you are mistaking the road, and that you will never arrive at the end of your journey. You want to climb the mountain, whereas God wishes you to descend it. He is awaiting you in the fruitful valley of humility.|
* * * * * *
|To me it seems that humility is truth. I do not know whether I am humble, but I do know that I see the truth in all things.|
* * * * * *
|Indeed you are a Saint!|
|No, I am not a Saint. I have never wrought the works of a Saint. I am but a tiny soul whom Almighty God has loaded with His favours.
|The truth of what I say will be made known to you in Heaven.|
|But have you not always been faithful to those favours?|
|Yes, from the age of three I have never refused our Good God anything. Still I cannot glorify myself. See how this evening the tree-tops are gilded by the setting sun. So likewise my soul appears to you all shining and golden because it is exposed to the rays of Love. But should the Divine Sun no longer shine thereon, it would instantly be sunk in gloom.|
|We too would like to become all golden -- what must we do?|
|You must practise the little virtues. This is sometimes difficult, but God never refuses the first grace -- courage for self-conquest; and if the soul correspond to that grace, she at once finds herself in God's sunlight. The praise given to Judith has always struck me: 'Thou hast done manfully, and thy heart has been strengthened.' In the onset we must act with courage. By this means the heart gains strength, and victory follows victory.|
* * * * * *
In conformity with the Rule, Soeur Therese never raised her eyes in the refectory, and, as I found great difficulty in this observance, she composed for me the following prayer. It reveals her exceeding humility, because in it she asked a grace of which I alone stood in need:
|O Jesus, in honour and in imitation of the example Thou gavest in the house of Herod, Thy two little Spouses resolve to keep their eyes cast down in the refectory. When that impious king scoffed at Thee, O Infinite Beauty, no complaint came from Thy Lips. Thou didst not even deign to fix on him Thy Adorable Eyes. He was not worthy of the favour, but we who are Thy Spouses, we desire to draw Thy Divine Gaze upon ourselves. As often as we refrain from raising our eyes, we beg Thee to reward us by a glance of love, and we even dare ask Thee not to refuse this sweet glance when we fail in our self-control, for we will humble ourselves most sincerely before Thee.|
* * * * * *
I confided to her that I made no progress, and that consequently I had lost heart.
|Up to the age of fourteen,| she said, |I practised virtue without tasting its sweetness. I desired suffering, but I did not think of making it my joy; that grace was vouchsafed me later. My soul was like a beautiful tree the flowers of which had scarcely opened when they fell.
|Offer to God the sacrifice of never gathering any fruit. If He will that throughout your whole life you should feel a repugnance to suffering and humiliation -- if He permit that all the flowers of your desires and of your good will should fall to the ground without any fruit appearing, do not worry. At the hour of death, in the twinkling of an eye, He will cause fair fruits to ripen on the tree of your soul.
|We read in the Book of Ecclesiasticus: 'There is an inactive man that wanteth help, is very weak in ability, and full of poverty: yet the Eye of God hath looked upon him for good, and hath lifted him up from his low estate, and hath exalted his head: and many have wondered at him, and have glorified God. . . . Trust in God, and stay in thy place. For it is easy in the Eyes of God, on a sudden, to make the poor man rich. The blessing of God maketh haste to reward the just, and in a swift hour His blessing beareth fruit.'|
|But if I fall, I shall always be found imperfect; whereas you are looked upon as holy.|
|That is, perhaps, because I have never desired to be considered so. . . . But that you should be found imperfect is just what is best. Here is your harvest. To believe oneself imperfect and others perfect -- this is true happiness. Should earthly creatures think you devoid of holiness, they rob you of nothing, and you are none the poorer: it is they who lose. For is there anything more sweet than the inward joy of thinking well of our neighbour?
|As for myself I am glad and rejoice, not only when I am looked upon as imperfect, but above all when I feel that it is true. Compliments, on the contrary, do but displease me.|
* * * * * *
|God has a special love for you since He entrusts souls to your care.|
|That makes no difference, and I am really only what I am in His Eyes. It is not because He wills me to be His interpreter among you, that He loves me more; rather, He makes me your little handmaid. It is for you, and not for myself, that He has bestowed upon me those charms and those virtues which you see.
|I often compare myself to a little bowl filled by God with good things. All the kittens come to eat from it, and they sometimes quarrel as to which will have the largest share. But the Holy Child Jesus keeps a sharp watch. 'I am willing you should feed from My little bowl,' He says, 'but take heed lest you upset and break it.'
|In truth there is no great danger, because I am already on the ground. Not so with Prioresses; set, as they are, on tables, they run far more risks. Honours are always dangerous. What poisonous food is served daily to those in high positions! What deadly fumes of incense! A soul must be well detached from herself to pass unscathed through it all.|
* * * * * *
|It is a consolation for you to do good and to procure the Glory of God. I wish I were equally favoured.|
|What if God does make use of me, rather than of another, to procure His Glory! Provided His Kingdom be established among souls, the instrument matters not. Besides, He has no need of anyone.
|Some time ago I was watching the flicker, almost invisible, of a tiny night-light, when one of the Sisters drew near, and, lighting her candle in the dying flame, passed it round to light all those of the Community. 'Who dare glory in his own good works?' I reflected. 'From one faint spark such as this, it would be possible to set the whole earth on fire.' We often think we receive graces and are divinely illumined by means of brilliant candles. But from whence comes their light? From the prayers, perhaps, of some humble, hidden soul, whose inward shining is not apparent to human eyes; a soul of unrecognised virtue and, in her own sight, of little value -- a dying flame.
|What mysteries will yet be unveiled to us! I have often thought that perhaps I owe all the graces with which I am laden, to some little soul whom I shall know only in Heaven.
|It is God's Will that in this world souls shall dispense to each other, by prayer, the treasures of Heaven, in order that when they reach their Everlasting Home they may love one another with grateful hearts, and with an affection far in excess of that which reigns in the most perfect family on earth.
|There no looks of indifference will meet us, because all the Saints will be mutually indebted to each other. No envious glances will be cast, for the happiness of each one of the Blessed will be the happiness of all. With the Doctors of the Church we shall be like unto Doctors; with the Martyrs, like unto Martyrs; with the Virgins, like unto Virgins; and just as the members of one family are proud one of the other, so without the least jealousy shall we take pride in our brothers and sisters.
|When we see the glory of the great Saints, and know that through the secret working of Providence we have contributed to it, who knows whether the joy we shall feel will not be as intense, perhaps sweeter, than the happiness they themselves possess?
|And do you not think that the great Saints, on their side, seeing what they owe to all little souls, will love them with a love beyond compare? The friendships of Paradise will be both sweet and full of surprise, of this I am certain. The familiar friend of an Apostle, or of a great Doctor of the Church, may be a shepherd boy, and a simple little child may be united in closest intimacy with a Patriarch. . . . I long to enter that Kingdom of Love!|
* * * * * *
|Believe me, the writing of pious books, the composing of the sublimest poetry, all that does not equal the smallest act of self-denial. When, however, our inability to do good gives us pain, our only resource is to offer up the good works of others, and in this lies the benefit of the Communion of Saints. Recall to mind that beautiful verse of the canticle of our Father, St. John of the Cross:
'Return, my dove! See on the height The wounded Hart, To whom refreshment brings The breeze, stirred by thy wings.'
|Thus the Spouse, the wounded Hart, is not attracted by the height, but only by the breeze from the pinions of the dove -- a breeze which one single stroke of wing is sufficient to create.|
* * * * * *
|The one thing which is not open to envy is the lowest place. Here alone, therefore, there is neither vanity nor affliction of spirit. Yet, 'the way of a man is not his own,' and sometimes we find ourselves wishing for what dazzles. In that hour let us in all humility take our place among the imperfect, and look upon ourselves as little souls who at every instant need to be upheld by the goodness of God. From the moment He sees us fully convinced of our nothingness, and hears us cry out: 'My foot stumbles, Lord, but Thy Mercy is my strength,' He reaches out His Hand to us. But, should we attempt great things, even under pretext of zeal, He deserts us. It suffices, therefore, to humble ourselves, to bear with meekness our imperfections. Herein lies -- for us -- true holiness.|
* * * * * *
One day I was complaining of being more tired than my Sisters, for, besides the ordinary duties, I had other work unknown to the rest. Soeur Therese replied:
|I should like always to see you a brave soldier, never grumblng at hardships, but considering the wounds of your companions as most serious, and your own as mere scratches. You feel this fatigue so much because no one is aware of it.
|Now the Blessed Margaret Mary, at the time she had two whitlows, confessed that she really suffered from the hidden one only. The other, which she was unable to hide, excited her Sisters' pity and made her an object of compassion. This is indeed a very natural feeling, the desire that people should know of our aches and pains, but in giving way to it we play the coward.|
* * * * * *
|When we are guilty of a fault we must never attribute it to some physical cause, such as illness or the weather. We must ascribe it to our own imperfections, without being discouraged thereby. 'Occasions do not make a man frail, but show what he is.'|
* * * * * *
|God did not permit that our Mother should tell me to write my poems as soon as I had composed them, and, fearful of committing a sin against poverty, I would not ask leave. I had therefore to wait for some free time, and at eight o'clock in the evening I often found it extremely difficult to remember what I had composed in the morning.
|True, these trifles are a species of martyrdom; but we must be careful not to alleviate the pain of the martyrdom by permitting ourselves, or securing permission for, a thousand and one things which would tend to make the religious life both comfortable and agreeable.|
* * * * * *
One day, as I was in tears, Soeur Therese told me to avoid the habit of allowing others to see the trifles that worried me, adding that nothing made community life more trying than unevenness of temper.
|You are indeed right, I answered, |such was my own thought. Henceforward my tears will be for God alone. I shall confide my worries to One Who will understand and console me.|
|Tears for God!| she promptly replied, |that must not be. Far less to Him than to creatures ought you to show a mournful face. Our Divine Master has only our monasteries where He may obtain some solace for His Heart. He comes to us in search of rest -- to forget the unceasing complaints of His friends in the world, who, instead of appreciating the value of the Cross, receive it far more often with moans and tears. Would you then be as the mediocre souls? Frankly, this is not disinterested love. . . . It is for us to console our Lord, and not for Him to console us. His Heart is so tender that if you cry He will dry your tears; but thereafter He will go away sad, since you did not suffer Him to repose tranquilly within you. Our Lord loves the glad of heart, the children that greet Him with a smile. When will you learn to hide your troubles from Him, or to tell Him gaily that you are happy to suffer for Him?|
|The face is the mirror of the soul,| she said once, |and yours, like that of a contented little child, should always be calm and serene. Even when alone, be cheerful, remembering always that you are in the sight of the Angels.|
* * * * * *
I was anxious she should congratulate me on what, in my eyes, was an heroic act of virtue; but she said to me:
|Compare this little act of virtue with what our Lord has the right to expect of you! Rather should you humble yourself for having lost so many opportunities of proving your love.|
Little satisfied with this answer, I awaited an opportunity of finding out how Soeur Therese herself would act under trial, and the occasion was not long in coming. Reverend Mother asked us to do some extremely tiring work which bristled with difficulties, and, on purpose, I made it still more difficult for our Mistress.
Not for one second, however, could I detect her in fault, and, heedless of the fatigue involved, she remained gracious and amiable, eager throughout to help others at her own expense. At last I could resist no longer, and I confessed to her what my thoughts had been.
|How comes it,| I said, |that you can be so patient? You are ever the same -- calm and full of joy.| |It was not always the case with me,| she replied, |but since I have abandoned all thought of self-seeking, I live the happiest life possible.|
* * * * * *
Our dear Mistress used to say that during recreation, more than at any other time, we should find opportunities for practising virtue.
|If your desire be to draw great profit, do not go with the idea of procuring relaxation, but rather with the intention of entertaining others and practising complete detachment from self. Thus, for instance, if you are telling one of the Sisters something you think entertaining, and she should interrupt to tell you something else, show yourself interested, even though in reality her story may not interest you in the least. Be careful, also, not to try to resume what you were saying. In this way you will leave recreation filled with a great interior peace and endowed with fresh strength for the practice of virtue, because you have not sought to please yourself, but others. If only we could realise what we gain by self-denial in all things!|
|You realise it, certainly, for you have always practised self-denial.|
|Yes, I have forgotten myself, and I have tried not to see myself in anything.|
* * * * * *
|When some one knocks at our door, or when we are rung for, we must practise mortification and refrain from doing even another stitch before answering. I have practised this myself, and I assure you that it is a source of peace.|
After this advice, and according as occasion offered, I promptly answered every summons. One day, during her illness, she was witness of this, and said:
|At the hour of death you will be very happy to find this to your account. You have just done something more glorious than if, through clever diplomacy, you had procured the good-will of the Government for all religious communities and had been proclaimed throughout France as a second Judith.|
* * * * * *
Questioned as to her method of sanctifying meals, she answered:
|In the refectory we have but one thing to do: perform a lowly action with lofty thoughts. I confess that the sweetest aspirations of love often come to me in the refectory. Sometimes I am brought to a standstill by the thought that were Our Lord in my place He would certainly partake of those same dishes which are served to me. It is quite probable that during His lifetime He tasted of similar food -- He must have eaten bread and fruit.
|Here are my little rubrics:
|I imagine myself at Nazareth, in the house of the Holy Family. If, for instance, I am served with salad, cold fish, wine, or anything pungent in taste, I offer it to St. Joseph. To our Blessed Lady I offer hot foods and ripe fruit, and to the Infant Jesus our feast-day fare, especially rice and preserves. Lastly, when I am served a wretched dinner I say cheerfully: 'To-day, my little one, it is all for you!'|
Thus in many pretty ways she hid her mortifications. One fast-day, however, when our Reverend Mother ordered her some special food, I found her seasoning it with wormwood because it was too much to her taste. On another occasion I saw her drinking very slowly a most unpleasant medicine. |Make haste,| I said, |drink it off at once!| |Oh, no!| she answered; |must I not profit of these small opportunities for penance since the greater ones are forbidden me?|
Toward the end of her life I learned that, during her noviciate, one of our Sisters, when fastening the scapular for her, ran the large pin through her shoulder, and for hours she bore the pain with joy. On another occasion she gave me proof of her interior mortification. I had received a most interesting letter which was read aloud at recreation, during her absence. In the evening she expressed the wish to read it, and I gave it to her. Later on, when she returned it, I begged her to tell me what she thought of one of the points of the letter which I knew ought to have charmed her. She seemed rather confused, and after a pause she answered: |God asked of me the sacrifice of this letter because of the eagerness I displayed the other day . . . so I have not read it.|
* * * * * *
When speaking to her of the mortifications of the Saints, she remarked: |It was well that Our Lord warned us: 'In My Father's House there are many mansions, otherwise I would have told you.' For, if every soul called to perfection were obliged to perform these austerities in order to enter Heaven, He would have told us, and we should have willingly undertaken them. But He has declared that, 'there are many mansions in His House.' If there are some for great souls, for the Fathers of the Desert and for Martyrs of penance, there must also be one for little children. And in that one a place is kept for us, if we but love Him dearly together with Our Father and the Spirit of Love.|
* * * * * *
|While in the world, I used, on waking, to think of all the pleasant or unpleasant things which might happen throughout the day, and if I foresaw nothing but worries I got up with a heavy heart. Now it is quite the reverse. I think of the pains and of the sufferings awaiting me, and I rise, feeling all the more courageous and light of heart in proportion to the opportunities I foresee of proving my love for Our Lord, and of gaining -- mother of souls as I am -- my children's livelihood. Then I kiss my crucifix, and, laying it gently on my pillow, I leave it there while I dress, and I say: 'My Jesus, Thou hast toiled and wept enough during Thy three-and-thirty years on this miserable earth. Rest Thee, to-day! It is my turn to suffer and to fight.'|
* * * * * *
One washing-day I was sauntering towards the laundry, and looking at the flowers as I passed. Soeur Therese was following, and quickly overtook me: |Is that,| she said quietly, |how people hurry themselves when they have children, and are obliged to work to procure them food?|
* * * * * *
|Do you know which are my Sundays and feast-days? They are the days on which God tries me the most.|
* * * * * *
I was distressed at my want of courage, and Soeur Therese said to me: |You are complaining of what should be your greatest happiness. If you fought only when you felt eagerness, where would be your merit? What does it matter, even if you are devoid of courage, provided you act as though you possessed it? If you feel too lazy to pick up a bit of thread, and yet do so for love of Jesus, you acquire more merit than for a much nobler action done in a moment of fervour. Instead of grieving, be glad that, by allowing you to feel your own weakness, Our Lord is furnishing you with an opportunity of saving a greater number of souls.|
* * * * * *
I asked her whether Our Lord were not displeased at the sight of my many failings. This was her answer: |Be comforted, for He Whom you have chosen as your Spouse has every imaginable perfection; but -- dare I say it? -- He has one great infirmity too -- He is blind! And there is a science about which He knows nothing -- addition! These two great defects, much to be deplored in an earthly bridegroom, do but make ours infinitely more lovable. Were it necessary that He should be clear-sighted, and familiar with the science of figures, do you not think that, confronted with our many sins, He would send us back to our nothingness? But His Love for us makes him actually blind.
|If the greatest sinner on earth should repent at the moment of his death, and draw His last breath in an act of love, neither the many graces he had abused, nor the multiplied crimes he had committed, would stand in his way. Our Lord would see nothing, count nothing, but the sinner's last prayer, and without delay He would receive him into the arms of His Mercy.
|But, to make Him thus blind and to prevent Him doing the smallest sum of addition, we must approach Him through His Heart -- on that side He is vulnerable and defenceless.|
* * * * * *
I had grieved her, and had gone to ask her pardon: |If you but knew what I feel!| she exclaimed. |Never have I more clearly understood the love with which Jesus receives us when we seek His forgiveness. If I, His poor little creature, feel so tenderly towards you when you come back to me, what must pass through Our Lord's Divine Heart when we return to Him? Far more quickly than I have just done will He blot out our sins from His memory. . . . Nay, He will even love us more tenderly than before we fell.|
* * * * * *
I had an immense dread of the judgments of God, and no argument of Soeur Therese could remove it. One day I put to her the following objection: |It is often said to us that in God's sight the angels themselves are not pure. How, therefore, can you expect me to be otherwise than filled with fear?|
She replied: |There is but one means of compelling God not to judge us, and it is -- to appear before Him empty-handed.| |And how can that be done?| |It is quite simple: lay nothing by, spend your treasures as you gain them. Were I to live to be eighty, I should always be poor, because I cannot economise. All my earnings are immediately spent on the ransom of souls.
|Were I to await the hour of death to offer my trifling coins for valuation, Our Lord would not fail to discover in them some base metal, and they would certainly have to be refined in Purgatory. Is it not recorded of certain great Saints that, on appearing before the Tribunal of God, their hands laden with merit, they have yet been sent to that place of expiation, because in God's Eyes all our justice is unclean?|
|But,| I replied, |if God does not judge our good actions, He will judge our bad ones.| |Do not say that! Our Lord is Justice itself, and if He does not judge our good actions, neither will He judge our bad ones. It seems to me, that for Victims of Love there will be no judgment. God will rather hasten to reward with eternal delights His own Love which He will behold burning in their hearts.|
|To enjoy such a privilege, would it suffice to repeat that Act of Oblation which you have composed?| |Oh, no! words do not suffice. To be a true Victim of Love we must surrender ourselves entirely. . . . Love will consume us only in the measure of our self-surrender.|
* * * * * *
I was grieving bitterly over a fault I had committed. |Take your Crucifix,| she said, |and kiss it.| I kissed the Feet.
|Is that how a child kisses its father? Throw your arms at once round His Neck and kiss His Face.| When I had done so, she continued: |That is not sufficient -- He must return your caress.| I had to press the Crucifix to both my cheeks, whereupon she added: |Now, all is forgiven.|
* * * * * *
I told her one day that if I must be reproached I preferred deserving it to being unjustly accused. |For my part,| she replied, |I prefer to be charged unjustly, because, having nothing to reproach myself with, I offer gladly this little injustice to God. Then, humbling myself, I think how easily I might have deserved the reproach. The more you advance, the fewer the combats; or rather, the more easy the victory, because the good side of things will be more visible. Then your soul will soar above creatures. As for me, I feel utterly indifferent to all accusations because I have learned the hollowness of human judgment.|
She added further: |When misunderstood and judged unfavourably, what benefit do we derive from defending ourselves? Leave things as they are, and say nothing. It is so sweet to allow ourselves to be judged anyhow, rightly or wrongly.
|It is not written in the Gospel that Saint Mary Magdalen put forth excuses when charged by her sister with sitting idle at Our Lord's Feet. She did not say: 'Martha, if you knew the happiness that is mine and if you heard the words that I hear, you too would leave everything to share my joy and my repose.' No, she preferred to keep silent. . . . Blessed silence which giveth such peace to the soul!|
* * * * * *
At a moment of temptation and struggle I received this note: |'The just man shall correct me in mercy and shall reprove me; but let not the oil of the sinner perfume my head.' It is only by the just that I can be either reproved or corrected, because all my Sisters are pleasing to God. It is less bitter to be rebuked by a sinner than by a just man; but through compassion for sinners, to obtain their conversion, I beseech Thee, O my God, to permit that I may be well rebuked by those just souls who surround me. I ask also that the oil of praise, so sweet to our nature, may not perfume my head, that is to say, my mind, by making me believe that I possess virtues when I have merely performed a few good actions.
|Jesus! 'Thy Name is as oil poured out,' and it is into this divine perfume that I desire wholly to plunge myself, far from the gaze of mankind.|
* * * * * *
|It is not playing the game to argue with a Sister that she is in the wrong, even when it is true, because we are not answerable for her conduct. We must not be Justices of the peace, but Angels of peace only.|
* * * * * *
|You give yourselves up too much to what you are doing,| she used to say to us; |you worry about the future as though it were in your hands. Are you much concerned at this moment as to what is happening in other Carmelite convents, and whether the nuns there are busy or otherwise? Does their work prevent you praying or meditating? Well, just in the same way, you ought to detach yourselves from your own personal labours, conscientiously spending on them the time prescribed, but with perfect freedom of heart. We read that the Israelites, while building the walls of Jerusalem, worked with one hand and held a sword in the other. This is an image of what we should do: avoid being wholly absorbed in our work.|
* * * * * *
|One Sunday,| Therese relates, |I was going toward the chestnut avenue, full of rejoicing, for it was spring-time, and I wanted to enjoy nature's beauties. What a bitter disappointment! My dear chestnuts had been pruned, and the branches, already covered with buds, now lay on the ground. On seeing this havoc, and thinking that three years must elapse before it could be repaired, my heart felt very sore. But the grief did not last long. 'If I were in another convent,' I reflected, 'what would it matter to me if the chestnut-trees of the Carmel at Lisieux were entirely cut down?' I will not worry about things that pass. God shall be my all. I will take my walks in the wooded groves of His Love, whereon none dare lay hands.|
* * * * * *
A novice asked her Sisters to help her shake some blankets. As they were somewhat liable to tear because of their worn condition, she insisted, rather sharply, on their being handled with care. |What would you do,| said Therese to the impatient one, |if it were not your duty to mend these blankets? There would be no thought of self in the matter, and if you did call attention to the fact that they are easily torn, it would be done in quite an impersonal way. In all your actions, you should avoid the least trace of self-seeking.|
* * * * * *
Seeing one of our Sisters very much fatigued, I said to Soeur Therese: |It grieves me to see people suffer, especially those who are holy.| She instantly replied: |I do not feel as you do. Saints who suffer never excite my pity. I know they have strength to bear their sufferings, and that through them they are giving great glory to God. But I compassionate greatly those who are not Saints, and who do not know how to profit by suffering. They indeed awake my pity. I would strain every nerve to help and comfort them.|
* * * * * *
|Were I to live longer, it is the office of Infirmarian that would most please me. I would not ask for it, but were it imposed through obedience, I should consider myself highly favoured. I think I should fulfill its duties with much affection, always mindful of Our Lord's words: 'I was sick, and you visited Me.' The infirmary bell should be for you as heavenly music, and you ought purposely to pass by the windows of the sick that it might be easy for them to summon you. Consider yourself as a little slave whom everyone has the right to command. Could you but see the Angels who from the heights of Heaven watch your combats in the arena! They are awaiting the end of the fight to crown you and cover you with flowers. You know that we claim to rank as little Martyrs . . . . but we must win our palms.
|God does not despise these hidden struggles with ourselves, so much richer in merit because they are unseen: 'The patient man is better than the valiant, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh cities.' Through our little acts of charity, practised in the dark, as it were, we obtain the conversion of the heathen, help the missionaries, and gain for them plentiful alms, thus building both spiritual and material dwellings for Our Eucharistic God.|
* * * * * *
I had seen Mother Prioress showing, as I thought, more confidence and affection to one of our Sisters than she extended to me. Expecting to win sympathy, I told my trouble to Soeur Therese, and great was my surprise when she put me the question: |Do you think you love our Mother very much?| |Certainly! otherwise I should be indifferent if others were preferred to me.|
|Well, I shall prove that you are absolutely mistaken, and that it is not our Mother that you love, but yourself. When we really love others, we rejoice at their happiness, and we make every sacrifice to procure it. Therefore if you had this true, disinterested affection, and loved our Mother for her own sake, you would be glad to see her find pleasure even at your expense; and since you think she has less satisfaction in talking with you than with another Sister, you ought not to grieve at being apparently neglected.|
* * * * * *
I was distressed at my many distractions during prayers: |I also have many,| she said, |but as soon as I am aware of them, I pray for those people the thought of whom is diverting my attention, and in this way they reap benefit from my distractions. . . . I accept all for the love of God, even the wildest fancies that cross my mind.|
* * * * * *
I was regretting a pin which I had been asked for, and which I had found most useful. |How rich you are,| said Therese, |you will never be happy!|
* * * * * *
The grotto of the Holy Child was in her charge, and, knowing that one of our Mothers greatly disliked perfumes, she never put any sweet-smelling flowers there, not even a tiny violet. This cost her many a real sacrifice. One day, just as she had placed a beautiful artificial rose at the foot of the statue, the Mother called her. Soeur Therese, surmising that it was to bid her remove the rose, was anxious to spare her any humiliation. She therefore took the flower to the good Sister, and, forestalling all observations, said: |Look, Mother, how well nature is imitated nowadays: would you not think this rose had been freshly gathered from the garden?|
* * * * * *
|There are moments,| she told us, |when we are so miserable within, that there is nothing for it but to get away from ourselves. At those times God does not oblige us to remain at home. He even permits our own company to become distasteful to us in order that we may leave it. Now I know no other means of exit save through the doorway of charitable works, on a visit to Jesus and Mary.|
* * * * * *
|When I picture the Holy Family, the thought that does me most good is -- the simplicity of their home-life. Our Lady and St. Joseph were well aware that Jesus was God, while at the same time great wonders were hidden from them, and -- like us -- they lived by faith. You have heard those words of the Gospel: 'They understood not the word that He spoke unto them'; and those others no less mysterious: 'His Father and Mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning Him.' They seemed to be learning something new, for this word 'wondering' implies a certain amount of surprise.|
* * * * * *
|There is a verse in the Divine Office which I recite each day with reluctance: 'I have inclined my heart to do Thy justifications for ever, because of the reward.' I hasten to add in my heart: 'My Jesus, Thou knowest I do not serve Thee for sake of reward, but solely out of love, and a desire to win Thee souls.|
* * * * * *
|In Heaven only shall we be in possession of the clear truth. On earth, even in matters of Holy Scripture, our vision is dim. It distresses me to see the differences in its translations, and had I been a Priest I would have learned Hebrew, so as to read the Word of God as He deigned to utter it in human speech.|
* * * * * *
Soeur Therese often spoke to me of a well-known toy with which she had amused herself when a child. This was the kaleidoscope, shaped like a small telescope, through which, as it is made to revolve, one perceives an endless variety of pretty-coloured figures.
|This toy,| she said, |excited my admiration, and I wondered what could provide so charming a phenomenon, when one day, after a lengthy examination, I found that it consisted simply of tiny bits of paper and cloth scattered inside. A further examination revealed that there were three mirrors inside the tube, and the problem was solved. It became for me the illustration of a great truth.
|So long as our actions, even the most trivial, remain within Love's kaleidoscope, so long the Blessed Trinity, figured by the three mirrors, imparts to them a wonderful brightness and beauty. The eye-piece is Jesus Christ, and He, looking from outside through Himself into the kaleidoscope, finds perfect all our works. But, should we leave that ineffable abode of Love, He would see but the rags and chaff of unclean and worthless deeds.|
* * * * * *
I told Soeur Therese of the strange phenomena produced by magnetism on persons who surrender their will to the hypnotiser. It seemed to interest her greatly, and next day she said to me: |Your conversation yesterday did me so much good! How I long to be hypnotised by Our Lord! It was my waking thought, and verily it was sweet to surrender Him my will. I want Him to take possession of my faculties in such wise that my acts may no more be mine, or human, but Divine -- inspired and guided by the Spirit of Love.|
* * * * * *
Before my profession I received through my saintly Novice-mistress a very special grace. We had been washing all day. I was worn-out with fatigue and harassed with spiritual worries. That night, before meditation, I wanted to speak to her, but she dismissed me with the remark: |That is the bell for meditation, and I have not time to console you; besides, I see plainly that it would be useless trouble. For the present, God wishes you to suffer alone.| I followed her to meditation so discouraged that, for the first time, I doubted of my vocation. I should never be able to be a Carmelite. The life was too hard.
I had been kneeling for some minutes, when all at once, in the midst of this interior struggle -- without having asked or even wished for peace -- I felt a sudden and extraordinary change of soul. I no longer knew myself. My vocation appeared to me both lovely and lovable. I saw the sweetness and priceless value of suffering. All the privations and fatigues of the religious life appeared to me infinitely preferable to worldly pleasures, and I came away from my meditation completely transformed.
Next day I told my Mistress what had taken place, and, seeing she was deeply touched, I begged to know the reason. |God is good,| she exclaimed. |Last evening you inspired me with such profound pity that I prayed incessantly for you at the beginning of meditation. I besought Our Lord to bring you comfort, to change your dispositions, and show you the value of suffering. He has indeed heard my prayers.|
* * * * * *
Being somewhat of a child in my ways, the Holy Child -- to help me in the practice of virtue -- inspired me with the thought of amusing myself with Him, and I chose the game of ninepins. I imagined them of all sizes and colours, representing the souls I wished to reach. The ball was -- love.
In December, 1896, the novices received, for the benefit of the Foreign Missions, various trifles towards a Christmas tree, and at the bottom of the box containing them was a top -- a rare thing in a Carmelite convent. My companions remarked: |What an ugly thing! -- of what use will it be?| But I, who knew the game, caught hold of it, exclaiming: |Nay, what fun! it will spin a whole day without stopping if it be well whipped|; and thereupon I spun it around to their great surprise.
Soeur Therese was quietly watching us, and on Christmas night, after midnight Mass, I found in our cell the famous top, with a delightful letter addressed as follows:
To My Beloved Little Spouse
Player of Ninepins on the Mountain of Carmel
Christmas Night, 1896.
MY BELOVED LITTLE SPOUSE, -- I am well pleased with thee! All the year round thou hast amused Me by playing at ninepins. I was so overjoyed that the whole court of Angels was surprised and charmed. Several little cherubs have asked me why I did not make them children. Others wanted to know if the melody of their instruments were not more pleasing to me than thy joyous laugh when a ninepin fell at the stroke of thy love-ball. My answer to them was, that they must not regret they are not children, since one day they would play with thee in the meadows of Heaven. I told them also that thy smiles were certainly more sweet to Me than their harmonies, because these smiles were purchased by suffering and forgetfulness of self.
And now, my cherished Spouse, it is my turn to ask something of thee. Thou wilt not refuse Me -- thou lovest Me too much. Let us change the game. Ninepins amuse me greatly, but at present I should like to play at spinning a top, and, if thou dost consent, thou shalt be the top. I give thee one as a model. Thou seest that it is ugly to look at, and would be kicked aside by whosoever did not know the game. But at the sight of it a child would leap for joy and shout: |What fun! it will spin a whole day without stopping!|
Although thou too art not attractive, I -- the little Jesus -- love thee, and beg of thee to keep always spinning to amuse Me. True, it needs a whip to make a top spin. Then let thy Sisters supply the whip, and be thou most grateful to those who shall make thee turn fastest. When I shall have had plenty of fun, I will bring thee to join Me here, and our games shall be full of unalloyed delight. -- Thy little Brother,
* * * * * *
I had the habit of constantly crying about the merest trifles, and this was a source of great pain to Soeur Therese. One day a bright idea occurred to her: taking a mussel-shell from her painting table, and, holding my hands lest I should prevent her, she gathered my tears in the shell, and soon they were turned into merry laughter.
|There,| she said, |from this onwards I permit you to cry as much as you like on condition that it is into the shell!|
A week, however, before her death I spent a whole evening in tears at the thought of her fast-approaching end. She knew it, and said: |You have been crying. Was it into the shell?| I was unable to tell an untruth, and my answer grieved her. |I am going to die,| she continued, |and I shall not be at rest about you unless you promise to follow faithfully my advice. I consider it of the utmost importance for the good of your soul.|
I promised what she asked, begging leave, however, as a favour, to be allowed to cry at her death. |But,| she answered, |why cry at my death? Those tears will certainly be useless. You will be bewailing my happiness! Still I have pity on your weakness, and for the first few days you have leave to cry, though afterwards you must again take up the shell.|
It has cost me some heroic efforts, but I have been faithful. I have kept the shell at hand, and each time the wish to cry overcame me, I laid hold of the pitiless thing. However urgent the tears, the trouble of passing it from one eye to the other so distracted my thoughts, that before very long this ingenious method entirely cured me of my sensibility.
* * * * * *
Owing to a fault which had caused Soeur Therese much pain, but of which I had deeply repented, I intended to deprive myself of Holy Communion. I wrote to her of my resolution, and this was her reply: |Little flower, most dear to Jesus, by this humiliation your roots are feeding upon the earth. You must now open wide your petals, or rather lift high your head, so that the Manna of the Angels may, like a divine dew, come down to strengthen you and supply all your wants. Good-night, poor little flower! Ask of Jesus that all the prayers offered for my cure may serve to increase the fire which ought to consume me.|
* * * * * *
|At the moment of Communion I sometimes liken my soul to that of a little child of three or four, whose hair has been ruffled and clothes soiled at play. This is a picture of what befalls me in my struggling with souls. But Our Blessed Lady comes promptly to the rescue, takes off my soiled pinafore, and arranges my hair, adorning it with a pretty ribbon or a simple flower. . . . Then I am quite nice, and able, without any shame, to seat myself at the Banquet of Angels.|
* * * * * *
In the infirmary we scarcely waited for the end of her thanksgiving before seeking her advice. At first, this somewhat distressed her, and she would make gentle reproaches, but soon she yielded to us, saying: |I must not wish for more rest than Our Lord. When He withdrew into the desert after preaching, the crowds would come and intrude upon His solitude. Come, then, to me as much as you like; I must die sword in hand -- 'the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.'|
* * * * * *
|Advise us,| we said to her, |how to profit by our spiritual instructions.| |Go for guidance with great simplicity, not counting too much on help which may fail you at any moment. You would then have to say with the Spouse in the Canticles: 'The keepers took away my cloak and wounded me; when I had a little passed by them, I found Him whom my soul loveth.' If you ask with humility and with detachment after your Beloved, the keepers will tell you. More often, you will find Jesus only when you have passed by all creatures. Many times have I repeated this verse of the Spiritual Canticle of St. John of the Cross:
'Messengers, I pray, no more Between us send, who know not how To tell me what my spirit longs to know. For they Thy charms who read -- For ever telling of a thousand more -- Make all my wounds to bleed, While deeper then before Doth an -- I know not what! -- my spirit grieve With stammerings vague, and of all life bereave.'|
* * * * * *
|If, supposing the impossible, God Himself could not see my good actions, I would not be troubled. I love Him so much I would like to give Him joy without His knowing who gave. When He sees the gift being made, He is, as it were, obliged to make a return. . . . I should wish to spare Him the trouble.|
* * * * * *
|Had I been rich, I could never have seen a poor person hungry without giving him to eat. This is my way also in the spiritual life. There are many souls on the brink of hell, and as my earnings come to hand they are scattered among these sinners. The time has never yet been when I could say: 'Now I am going to work for myself.'|
* * * * * *
|There are people who make the worst of everything. As for me, I do just the contrary. I always see the good side of things, and even if my portion be suffering, without a glimmer of solace, well, I make it my joy.|
* * * * * *
|Whatever has come from God's Hands has always pleased me, even those things which have seemed to me less good and less beautiful than the gifts made to others.|
* * * * * *
|When staying with my aunt, while I was still a little girl, I was given a certain book to read. In one of the stories great praise was bestowed on a schoolmistress who by her tact escaped from every difficulty without hurting anyone's feelings. Her method of saying to one person: 'You are right,' and to another: 'You are not wrong,' struck me particularly, and as I read I reflected that I would not have acted in that way because we should always tell the truth. And this I always do, though I grant it is much more difficult. It would be far less trouble for us, when told of a worry, to cast the blame on the absent. Less trouble . . . nevertheless I do just the contrary, and if I am disliked it cannot be helped. Let the novices not come to me if they do not want to learn the truth.|
* * * * * *
|Before a reproof bear fruit it must cost something and be free from the least trace of passion. Kindness must not degenerate into weakness. When we have had good reason for finding fault, we must leave it, and not allow ourselves to worry over having given pain. To seek out the delinquent for the purpose of consoling her, is to do more harm than good. Left alone, she is compelled to look beyond creatures, and to turn to God; she is forced to see her faults and to humble herself. Otherwise she would become accustomed to expect consolation after a merited rebuke, and would act like a spoilt child who stamps and screams, knowing well that by this means its mother will be forced to return and dry its tears.|
* * * * * *
|'Let the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, be ever in your mouth and in your hearts.' If we find any one particular person disagreeable we should never be disheartened, much less cease our endeavour to reform that soul. We should wield the sword of the Spirit, and so correct her faults. Things should never be allowed to pass for the sake of our own ease. We must carry on the war even when there is no hope of victory. Success matters nothing, and we must fight on and never complain: 'I shall gain nothing from that soul, she does not understand, there is nothing for it but to abandon her.' That would be the act of a coward. We must do our duty to the very end.|
* * * * * *
|Formerly, if any of my friends were in trouble, and I did not succeed in consoling them when they came to see me, I left the parlour quite heart-broken. Soon, however, Our Lord made me understand how incapable I was of bringing comfort to a soul, and from that day I no longer grieved when my visitors went away downcast. I confided to God the sufferings of those so dear to me, and I felt sure that He heard my prayer. At their next visit I learned that I was not mistaken. After this experience, I no longer worry when I have involuntarily given pain. . . . I simply ask Our Lord to make amends.|
* * * * * *
|What do you think of all the graces that have been heaped upon you?| -- |I think 'the Spirit of God breatheth where He will.'|
* * * * * *
|Mother,| she one day said to the Prioress, |were I unfaithful, were I to commit even the smallest infidelity, I feel that my soul would be plunged into the most terrible anguish, and I should be unable to welcome death.|
Mother Prioress evinced surprise at hearing her speak in this strain, and she continued: |I am speaking of infidelity in the matter of pride. If, for example, I were to say: 'I have acquired such or such a virtue and I can practise it'; or again: 'My God, Thou knowest I love Thee too much to dwell on one single thought against faith,' straightway I should be assailed by the most dangerous temptations and should certainly yield. To prevent this misfortune I have but to say humbly and from my heart: 'My God, I beseech Thee not to let me be unfaithful.'
|I understand clearly how St. Peter fell. He placed too much reliance on his own ardent nature, instead of leaning solely on the Divine strength. Had he only said: 'Lord, give me strength to follow Thee unto death!' the grace would not have been refused him.
|How is it, Mother, that Our Lord, knowing what was about to happen, did not say to him: 'Ask of Me the strength to do what is in thy mind?' I think His purpose was to give us a twofold lesson -- first: that He taught His Apostles nothing by His presence which He does not teach us through the inspirations of grace; and secondly: that, having made choice of St. Peter to govern the whole Church, wherein there are many sinners, He wished him to test in himself what man can do without God's help. This is why Jesus said to him before his fall: 'Thou being once converted confirm thy brethren'; that is, 'Tell them the story of thy sin -- show them by thy own experience, how necessary it is for salvation to rely solely upon Me.'|
* * * * * *
I was much afflicted at seeing her ill, and I often exclaimed: |Life is so dreary!| |Life is not dreary| -- she would immediately say; |on the contrary, it is most gay. Now if you said: 'Exile is dreary,' I could understand. It is a mistake to call 'life' that which must have an end. Such a word should be only used of the joys of Heaven -- joys that are unfading -- and in this true meaning life is not sad but gay -- most gay. . . .|
Her own gaiety was a thing of delight. For several days she had been much better, and we were saying to her: |We do not yet know of what disease you will die. . . .| |But,| she answered, |I shall die of death! Did not God tell Adam of what he would die when He said to him: 'Thou shalt die of death'?|
|Then death will come to fetch you?| -- |No, not death, but the Good God. Death is not, as pictures tell us, a phantom, a horrid spectre. The Catechism says that it is the separation of soul and body -- no more! Well, I do not fear a separation which will unite me for ever to God.|
|Will the Divine Thief,| some one asked, |soon come to steal His little bunch of grapes?| |I see Him in the distance, and I take good care not to cry out: 'Stop thief!' Rather, I call to Him: 'This way, this way!'|
* * * * * *
Asked under what name we should pray to her in Heaven, she answered humbly: |Call me Little Therese.|
* * * * * *
I was telling her that the most beautiful angels, all robed in white, would bear her soul to Heaven: |Fancies like those,| she answered, |do not help me, and my soul can only feed upon truth. God and His Angels are pure spirits. No human eye can see them as they really are. That is why I have never asked extraordinary favours. I prefer to await the Eternal Vision.|
|To console me at your death I have asked God to send me a beautiful dream.| -- |That is a thing I would never do . . . ask for consolations. Since you wish to resemble me, you know what are my ideas on this:
'Fear not, O Lord, that I shall waken Thee: I shall await in peace the Heavenly Shore.'
|It is so sweet to serve God in the dark night and in the midst of trial. After all, we have but this life in which to live by faith.|
* * * * * *
|I am happy at the thought of going to Heaven, but when I reflect on these words of Our Lord: 'I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to his works,' I think that He will find my case a puzzle: I have no works. . . . Well, He will render unto me according to His own works!|
* * * * * *
|The chief plenary indulgence, which is within reach of everybody, and can be gained without the ordinary conditions, is that of charity -- which 'covereth a multitude of sins.'|
* * * * * *
|Surely you will not even pass through Purgatory. If such a thing should happen, then certainly nobody goes straight to Heaven.| -- |That gives me little thought. I shall be quite content with the Merciful God's decision. Should I go to Purgatory, I shall -- like the three Hebrew children in the furnace -- walk amid the flames singing the Canticle of Love.|
* * * * * *
|In Heaven you will be placed among the Seraphim.| |If so, I shall not imitate them. At the sight of God they cover themselves with their wings: I shall take good care not to hide myself with mine.|
* * * * * *
I showed her a picture which represented Joan of Arc being comforted in prison by her Voices, and she remarked: |I also am comforted by an interior voice. From above, the Saints encourage me, saying: 'So long as thou art a captive in chains, thou canst not fulfill thy mission, but later on, after thy death, will come thy day of triumph.'|
* * * * * *
|In Heaven, God will do all I desire, because on earth I have never done my own will.|
* * * * * *
|You will look down upon us from Heaven, will you not?| -- |No, I will come down.|
* * * * * *
Some months before the death of Soeur Therese, The Life of St. Aloysius was being read in the refectory, and one of the Mothers was struck by the mutual and tender affection which existed between the young Saint and the aged Jesuit, Father Corbinelli.
|You are little Aloysius,| she said to Therese, |and I am old Father Corbinelli -- be mindful of me when you enter Heaven.| |Would you like me to fetch you thither soon, dear Mother?| |No, I have not yet suffered enough.| |Nay, Mother, I tell you that you have suffered quite enough.| To which Mother Hermance replied: |I dare not say Yes. . . . In so grave a matter I must have the sanction of authority.| So the request was made to Mother Prioress, who, without attaching much importance to it, gave her sanction.
Now, on one of the last days of her life, Soeur Therese, scarcely able to speak owing to her great weakness, received through the infirmarian a bouquet of flowers. It had been gathered by Mother Hermance, and was accompanied by an entreaty for one word of affection. The message: |Tell Mother Hermance of the Heart of Jesus that during Mass this morning I saw Father Corbinelli's grave close to that of little Aloysius.|
|That is well,| replied the good Mother, greatly touched; |tell Soeur Therese that I have understood. . . .| And from that moment she felt convinced her death was near. It took place just one year later, and, according to the prediction of the |Little Aloysius,| the two graves lie side by side.
* * * * * *
The last words penned by the hand of Soeur Therese were: |O Mary, were I Queen of Heaven, and wert thou Therese, I should wish to be Therese, that I might see thee Queen of Heaven!|
Ecclus.11:12, 13, 22, 23, 24.
Cf. Psalm 93:18.
Imit., I, xvi.4.
Cf. Psalm 111:5.
Cf.2 Esdras 4:17.
Cf. Cant.5:7, 3:4.
In this and the following |counsel| it should be remembered that it is a Novice-Mistress who is speaking. [Ed.]
Cf. Ephes.6:17; Isaias 61:21.
Cf. John 3:8.
Cf. Gen.2:17. A play on the French: Tu mourras de mort. [Ed.]
Cf. Isaias 6:2.
LETTERS OF SOEUR THERESE
THE LITTLE FLOWER OF JESUS
LETTERS OF SOEUR THERESE TO HER SISTER CELINE
May 8, 1888.
DEAREST CELINE, -- There are moments when I wonder whether I am really and truly in the Carmel; sometimes I can scarcely believe it. What have I done for God that He should shower so many graces upon me?
A whole month has passed since we parted; but why do I say parted? Even were the wide ocean between us, our souls would remain as one. And yet I know that not to have me is real suffering, and if I listened to myself I should ask Jesus to let me bear the sadness in your stead! I do not listen, as you see; I should be afraid of being selfish in wishing for myself the better part -- I mean the suffering. You are right -- life is often burdensome and bitter. It is painful to begin a day of toil, especially when Jesus hides Himself from our love. What is this sweet Friend about? Does He not see our anguish and the burden that weighs us down? Why does He not come and comfort us?
Be not afraid. . . . He is here at hand. He is watching, and it is He who begs from us this pain, these tears. . . . He needs them for souls, for our souls, and He longs to give us a magnificent reward. I assure you that it costs Him dear to fill us with bitterness, but He knows that it is the only means of preparing us to know Him as He knows Himself, and to become ourselves Divine! Our soul is indeed great and our destiny glorious. Let us lift ourselves above all things that pass, and hold ourselves far from the earth! Up above, the air is so pure. . . . Jesus may hide Himself, but we know that He is there.
October 20, 1888.
MY DEAREST SISTER, -- Do not let your weakness make you unhappy. When, in the morning, we feel no courage or strength for the practice of virtue, it is really a grace: it is the time to |lay the axe to the root of the tree,| relying upon Jesus alone. If we fall, an act of love will set all right, and Jesus smiles. He helps us without seeming to do so; and the tears which sinners cause Him to shed are wiped away by our poor weak love. Love can do all things. The most impossible tasks seem to it easy and sweet. You know well that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them. What, then, have we to fear?
You wish to become a Saint, and you ask me if this is not attempting too much. Celine, I will not tell you to aim at the seraphic holiness of the most privileged souls, but rather to be |perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.| You see that your dream -- that our dreams and our desires -- are not fancies, since Jesus Himself has laid their realisation upon us as a commandment.
MY DEAR LITTLE CELINE, -- Jesus offers you the cross, a very heavy cross, and you are afraid of not being able to carry it without giving way. Why? Our Beloved Himself fell three times on the way to Calvary, and why should we not imitate our Spouse? What a favour from Jesus, and how He must love us to send us so great a sorrow! Eternity itself will not be long enough to bless Him for it. He heaps his favours upon us as upon the greatest Saints. What, then, are His loving designs for our souls? That is a secret which will only be revealed to us in our Heavenly Home, on the day when |the Lord shall wipe away all our tears.|
Now we have nothing more to hope for on earth -- |the cool evenings are passed| -- for us suffering alone remains! Ours is an enviable lot, and the Seraphim in Heaven are jealous of our happiness.
The other day I came across this striking passage: |To be resigned and to be united to the will of God are not the same; there is the same difference between them as that which exists between union and unity; in union there are still two, in unity there is but one.| Yes, let us be one with God even in this life; and for this we should be more than resigned, we should embrace the Cross with joy.
February 28, 1889.
MY DEAR LITTLE SISTER, -- Jesus is |a Spouse of blood.| He wishes for Himself all the blood of our hearts. You are right -- it costs us dear to give Him what He asks. But what a joy that it does cost! It is happiness to bear our crosses, and to feel our weakness in doing so.
Celine, far from complaining to Our Lord of this cross which He sends us, I cannot fathom the Infinite Love which had led Him to treat us in this way. Our dear Father must indeed be loved by God to have so much suffering given to him. I know that by humiliation alone can Saints be made, and I also know that our trial is a mine of gold for us to turn to account. I, who am but a little grain of sand, wish to set to work, though I have neither courage nor strength. Now this very want of power will make my task easier, for I wish to work for love. Our martyrdom is beginning . . . Let us go forth to suffer together, dear sister, and let us offer our sufferings to Jesus for the salvation of souls.
March 12, 1899.
. . . I must forget this world. Here everything wearies me -- I find only one joy, that of suffering, and this joy, which is not one of sense, is above all joy. Life is passing, and eternity is drawing near. Soon we shall live the very life of God. After we have been filled at the source of all bitterness, our thirst will be quenched at the very Fountain of all sweetness.
|The figure of this world passeth away| -- soon we shall see new skies -- a more radiant sun will light with its splendour crystal seas and infinite horizons. We shall no longer be prisoners in a land of exile, all will have passed away, and with our Heavenly Spouse we shall sail upon boundless seas. Now, |our harps are hanging on the willows which grow by the rivers of Babylon,| but in the day of our deliverance what harmonies will they not give forth, how joyfully shall we make all their strings vibrate! Now, |we shed tears as we remember Sion, for how can we sing the songs of the Lord in a land of exile?| The burden of our song is suffering. Jesus offers us a chalice of great bitterness. Let us not withdraw our lips from it, but suffer in peace. He who says peace does not say joy, or at least sensible joy: to suffer in peace it is enough to will heartily all that Our Lord wills. Do not think we can find love without suffering, for our nature remains and must be taken into account; but it puts great treasures within our reach. Suffering is indeed our very livelihood, and is so precious that Jesus came down upon earth on purpose to possess it. We should like to suffer generously and nobly; we should like never to fall. What an illusion! What does it matter to me if I fall at every moment! In that way I realise my weakness, and I gain thereby. My God, Thou seest how little I am good for, when Thou dost carry me in Thy Arms; and if Thou leavest me alone, well, it is because it pleases Thee to see me lie on the ground. Then why should I be troubled?
If you are willing to bear in peace the trial of not being pleased with yourself, you will be offering the Divine Master a home in your heart. It is true that you will suffer, because you will be like a stranger to your own house; but do not be afraid -- the poorer you are, the more Jesus will love you. I know that He is better pleased to see you stumbling in the night upon a stony road, than walking in the full light of day upon a path carpeted with flowers, because these flowers might hinder your advance.
July 14, 1889.
MY DARLING SISTER, -- I am ever with you in spirit. Yes, it is very hard to live upon this earth, but to-morrow, in a brief hour, we shall be at rest. O my God, what shall we then see? What is this life which will have no end? Our Lord will be the soul of our soul. O unsearchable mystery! |Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.| And all this will come soon -- very soon -- if we love Jesus ardently. It seems to me that God has no need of years to perfect His labour of love in a soul. One ray from His Heart can in an instant make His flower blossom forth, never to fade. . . . Celine, during the fleeting moments that remain to us, let us save souls! I feel that Our Spouse asks us for souls -- above all, for the souls of Priests. . . . It is He Who bids me tell you this.
There is but one thing to be done here below: to love Jesus, and to save souls for Him that He may be more loved. We must not let slip the smallest opportunity of giving Him joy. We must refuse Him nothing. He is in such need of love.
We are His chosen lilies. He dwells as a King in our midst -- He lets us share the honours of His Royalty -- His Divine Blood bedews our petals -- and His Thorns as they wound us spread abroad the perfume of our love.
October 22, 1889.
MY DEAREST CELINE, -- I send you a picture of the Holy Face. The contemplation of this Divine subject seems to me to belong in a special way to my little sister, truly the sister of my soul. May she be another Veronica, and wipe away all the Blood and Tears of Jesus, her only Love! May she give Him souls! May she force her way through the soldiers -- that is, the world -- to come close to His side. . . . Happy will she be when she sees in Heaven the value of that mysterious draught with which she quenched the thirst of her Heavenly Spouse; when she sees His Lips, once parched with burning thirst, speaking to her the one eternal word -- love, and the thanks which shall have no end. . . .
Good-bye, dear little Veronica; to-morrow, no doubt, your Beloved will ask some new sacrifice, a fresh relief for His thirst . . . but |let us go and die with Him!|
July 18, 1890.
MY DEAR LITTLE SISTER, -- I send you a passage from Isaias which will comfort you. Long ago the Prophet's soul was filled with the thought of the hidden beauties of the Divine Face, as our souls are now. Many a century has passed since then. It makes me wonder what is Time. Time is but a mirage, a dream. Already God sees us in glory, and rejoices in our everlasting bliss. How much good I derive from this thought! I understand now why He allows us to suffer.
Since Our Beloved has |trodden the wine-press alone,| the wine-press from which He gives us to drink -- on our side let us not refuse to be clothed in blood-stained garments, or to tread out for Jesus a new wine which may quench His thirst! When |He looks around Him,| He will not be able to say now that |He is alone| -- we shall be there to help Him.
|His look as it were hidden.| Alas! it is so even to this day, and no one understands His Tears. |Open to Me, My Sister, My Spouse,| he says to us, |for My Head is full of dew and My Locks of the drops of the night.| Thus Jesus complains to our souls when He is deserted and forgotten . . . To be forgotten. It is this, I think, which gives Him most pain.
And our dear Father! -- it is heartrending, but how can we repine since Our Lord Himself was looked upon |as one struck by God and afflicted|? In this great sorrow we should forget ourselves, and pray for Priests -- our lives must be entirely devoted to them. Our Divine Master makes me feel more and more that this is what He asks of you and me.
September 23, 1890.
O Celine, how can I tell you all that is happening within me? What a wound I have received! And yet I feel it is inflicted by a loving Hand, by a Hand divinely jealous.
All was ready for my espousals; but do you not think that something was still wanting to the feast? It is true, Jesus had already enriched me with many jewels, but no doubt there was one of incomparable beauty still missing; this priceless diamond He has given me to-day . . . Papa will not be here to-morrow! Celine, I confess that I have cried bitterly. . . . I am still crying so that I can scarcely hold my pen.
You know how intensely I longed to see our dearest Father again; but now I feel that it is God's Will that he should not be at my feast. God has allowed it simply to try our love. Jesus wishes me to be an orphan . . . to be alone, with Him alone, so that He may unite Himself more closely to me. He wishes, too, to give me back in Heaven this joy so lawfully desired, but which He has denied me here on earth.
To-day's trial is one of those sorrows that are difficult to understand: a joy was set before us, one most natural and easy of attainment. We stretched forth our hands . . . and the coveted joy was withdrawn. But it is not the hand of man which has done this thing -- it is God's work. Celine, understand your Therese, and let us accept cheerfully the thorn which is offered us. To-morrow's feast will be one of tears, but I feel that Jesus will be greatly consoled. . . .
October 14, 1890.
MY DARLING SISTER, -- I know quite well all you are suffering. I know your anguish, and I share it. Oh! If I could but impart to you the peace which Jesus has put into my soul amid my most bitter tears. Be comforted -- all passes away. Our life of yesterday is spent; death too will come and go, and then we shall rejoice in life, true life, for countless ages, for evermore. Meanwhile let us make of our heart a garden of delights where Our sweet Saviour may come and take His rest. Let us plant only lilies there, and sing with St. John of the Cross:
|There I remained in deep oblivion, My head reposing upon Him I love, Lost to myself and all! I cast my cares away And let them, heedless, mid the lilies lie.|
April 26, 1891.
MY DEAR LITTLE SISTER, -- Three years ago our hearts had not yet been bruised, and life was one glad smile. Then Jesus looked down upon us, and all things were changed into an ocean of tears . . . but likewise into an ocean of grace and of love. God has taken from us him whom we loved so tenderly -- was it not that we might be able to say more truly than ever: |Our Father Who art in heaven|? How consoling is this divine word, and what vast horizons it opens before us!
My darling Celine, you who asked me so many questions when we were little, I wonder how it was you never asked: |Why has God not made me an Angel?| Well, I am going to tell you. Our Lord wishes to have His Court here on earth, as He has in Heaven; He wishes for angel-martyrs and angel-apostles; and if He has not made you an Angel in Heaven, it is because He wishes you to be an Angel of earth, so that you may be able to suffer for His Love.
Dearest sister, the shadows will soon disappear, the rays of the Eternal Sun will thaw the hoar frost of winter. . . . A little longer, and we shall be in our true country, and our childhood's joys -- those Sunday evenings, those outpourings of the heart -- will be given back to us for ever!
August 15, 1892.
MY DEAR LITTLE SISTER, -- To write to you to-day I am obliged to steal a little time from Our Lord. He will forgive, because it is of Him that we are going to speak together. The vast solitudes and enchanting views which unfold themselves before you ought to uplift your soul. I do not see those things, and I content myself by saying with St. John of the Cross in his Spiritual Canticle:
In Christ I have the mountains, The quiet, wooded valleys.
Lately I have been thinking what I could undertake for the salvation of souls, and these simple words of the Gospel have given me light. Pointing to the fields of ripe corn, Jesus once said to His disciples: |Lift up your eyes and see the fields, for they are already white with the harvest|; and again: |The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He send forth labourers.|
Here is a mystery indeed! Is not Jesus all-powerful? Do not creatures belong to Him who hade them? Why does He deign to say: |Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that He send forth labourers|? It is because His Love for us is so unsearchable, so tender, that He wishes us to share in all He does. The Creator of the Universe awaits the prayer of a poor little soul to save a multitude of other souls, ransomed, like her, at the price of His Blood.
Our vocation is not to go forth and reap in Our Father's fields. Jesus does not say to us: |Look down and reap the harvest.| Our mission is even more sublime. |Lift up your eyes and see,| saith our Divine Master, |see how in Heaven there are empty thrones. It is for you to fill them. . . . You are as Moses praying on the mountain, so ask Me for labourers and they shall be sent. I only await a prayer, a sigh! Is not the apostolate of prayer -- so to speak -- higher than that of the spoken word? It is for us by prayer to train workers who will spread the glad tidings of the Gospel and who will save countless souls -- the souls to whom we shall be the spiritual Mothers. What, then, have we to envy in the Priests of the Lord?
MY DARLING SISTER, -- The affection of our childhood days has changed into a closest union of mind and heart. Jesus has drawn us to Him together, for are you not already His? He has put the world beneath our feet. Like Zaccheus we have climbed into a tree to behold Him -- mysterious tree, raising us high above all things, from whence we can say: |All is mine, all is for me: the Earth and the Heavens are mine, God Himself is mine, and the Mother of my God is for me.|
Speaking of that Blessed Mother, I must tell you of one of my simple ways. Sometimes I find myself saying to her: |Dearest Mother, it seems to me that I am happier than you. I have you for my Mother, and you have no Blessed Virgin to love. . . . It is true, you are the Mother of Jesus, but you have given Him to me; and He, from the Cross, has given you to be our Mother -- thus we are richer than you! Long ago, in your humility, you wished to become the little handmaid of the Mother of God; and I -- poor little creature -- am not your handmaid but your child! You are the Mother of Jesus, and you are also mine!|
Our greatness in Jesus is verily marvellous, my Celine. He has unveiled for us many a mystery by making us climb the mystical tree of which I spoke above. And now what science is He going to teach? Have we not learned all things from Him?
|Make haste to come down, for this day I must abide in thy house.| Jesus bids us come down. Where, then, must we go? The Jews asked Him: |Master, where dwellest thou?| And He answered, |The foxes have holes and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head.| If we are to be the dwelling-place of Jesus, we must come down even to this -- we must be so poor that we have not where to lay our heads.
This grace of light has been given to me during my retreat. Our Lord desires that we should receive Him into our hearts, and no doubt they are empty of creatures. Alas! mine is not empty of self; that is why He bids me come down. And I shall come down even to the very ground, that Jesus may find within my heart a resting-place for His Divine Head, and may feel that there at least He is loved and understood.
April 25, 1893.
MY LITTLE CELINE, -- I must come and disclose the desires of Jesus with regard to your soul. Remember that He did not say: |I am the flower of the gardens, a carefully-tended Rose|; but, |I am the Flower of the fields and the Lily of the valleys.| Well, you must be always as a drop of dew hidden in the heart of this beautiful Lily of the valley.
The dew-drop -- what could be simpler, what more pure? It is not the child of the clouds; it is born beneath the starry sky, and survives but a night. When the sun darts forth its ardent rays, the delicate pearls adorning each blade of grass quickly pass into the lightest of vapour. . . . There is the portrait of my little Celine! She is a drop of dew, an offspring of Heaven -- her true Home. Through the night of this life she must hide herself in the Field-flower's golden cup; no eye must discover her abode.
Happy dewdrop, known to God alone, think not of the rushing torrents of this world! Envy not even the crystal stream which winds among the meadows. The ripple of its waters is sweet indeed, but it can be heard by creatures. Besides, the Field-flower could never contain it in its cup. One must be so little to draw near to Jesus, and few are the souls that aspire to be little and unknown. |Are not the river and the brook,| they urge, |of more use than a dewdrop? Of what avail is it? Its only purpose is to refresh for one moment some poor little field-flower.|
Ah! They little know the true Flower of the field. Did they know Him they would understand better Our Lord's reproach to Martha. Our Beloved needs neither our brilliant deeds nor our beautiful thoughts. Were He in search of lofty ideas, has He not His Angels, whose knowledge infinitely surpasses that of the greatest genius of earth? Neither intellect nor other talents has He come to seek among us. . . . He has become the Flower of the field to show how much He loves simplicity.
The Lily of the valley asks but a single dewdrop, which for one night shall rest in its cup, hidden from all human eyes. But when the shadows shall begin to fade, when the Flower of the field shall have become the Sun of Justice, then the dewdrop -- the humble sharer of His exile -- will rise up to Him as love's vapour. He will shed on her a ray of His light, and before the whole court of Heaven she will shine eternally like a precious pearl, a dazzling mirror of the Divine Sun.
August 2, 1893.
MY DEAR CELINE, -- What you write fills me with joy; you are making your way by a royal road. The Spouse in the Canticles, unable to find her Beloved in the time of repose, went forth to seek Him in the city. But in vain . . . it was only without the walls she found Him. It is not in the sweetness of repose that Jesus would have us discover His Adorable Presence. He hides Himself and shrouds Himself in darkness. True, this was not His way with the multitude, for we read that all the people were carried away as soon as He spoke to them.
The weaker souls He charmed by His divine eloquence with the aim of strengthening them against the day of temptation and trial, but His faithful friends were few that day when |He was silent| in the presence of His judges. Sweet melody to my heart is that silence of the Divine Master!
He would have us give Him alms as to a poor man, and puts Himself -- so to speak -- at our mercy. He will take nothing that is not cheerfully given, and the veriest trifle is precious in His Divine Eyes. He stretches forth His Hand to receive a little love, that in the radiant day of the Judgment He may speak to us those ineffably sweet words: |Come, ye blessed of My Father, for I was hungry and you gave Me to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.|
Dearest Celine, let us rejoice in the lot that is ours! Let us give and give again, and give royally, never forgetting that Our Beloved is a hidden Treasure which few souls know how to find. Now to discover that which is hidden we must needs hide ourselves in the hiding-place. Let our life, then, be one of concealment. The author of the Imitation tells us:
|If thou would'st know and learn something to the purpose, love to be unknown, and to be esteemed as nothing . . . Having forsaken all things, a man should forsake himself. . . Let this man glory in this and another in that, but thou for thy part rejoice neither in this nor in that, but in the contempt of thyself.|
MY DEAR CELINE, -- You tell me that my letters do good to you. I am indeed glad, but I assure you that I am under no misapprehension: |Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain who build it.| The greatest eloquence cannot call forth a single act of love without that grace which touches the heart.
Think of a beautiful peach with its delicate tint of rose, with its flavour so sweet that no human skill could invent such nectar. Tell me, Celine, is it for the peach's own sake that God created that colour so fair to the eye, that velvety covering so soft to the touch? Is it for itself that He made it so sweet? Nay, it is for us; the only thing that is all its own and is essential to its being, is the stone; it possesses nothing beyond.
Thus also it pleases Jesus to lavish His gifts on certain souls in order to draw yet others to Himself; in His Mercy He humbles them inwardly and gently compels them to recognise their nothingness and His Almighty Power. Now this sentiment of humility is like a kernel of grace which God hastens to develop against that blessed day, when, clothed with an imperishable beauty, they will be placed, without danger, on the banqueting-table of Paradise. Dear little sister, sweet echo of my soul, Therese is far from the heights of fervour at this moment; but when I am in this state of spiritual dryness, unable to pray, or to practise virtue, I look for little opportunities, for the smallest trifles, to please my Jesus: a smile or a kind word, for instance, when I would wish to be silent, or to show that I am bored. If no such occasion offer, I try at least to say over and over again that I love Him. This is not hard, and it keeps alive the fire in my heart. Even should the fire of love seem dead, I would still throw my tiny straws on the ashes, and I am confident it would light up again.
It is true I am not always faithful, but I never lose courage. I leave myself in the Arms of Our Lord. He teaches me to draw profit from everything, from the good and from the bad which He finds in me. He teaches me to speculate in the Bank of Love, or rather it is He Who speculates for me, without telling me how He does it -- that is His affair, not mine. I have but to surrender myself wholly to Him, to do so without reserve, without even the satisfaction of knowing what it is all bringing to me. . . . After all, I am not the prodigal child, and Jesus need not trouble about a feast for me, because I am always with Him.
I have read in the Gospel that the Good Shepherd leaves the faithful ones of His flock in the desert to hasten after the lost sheep. This confidence touches me deeply. You see He is sure of them. How could they stray away? They are prisoners of Love. In like manner does the Beloved Shepherd of our souls deprive us of the sweets of His Presence, to give His consolations to sinners; or if He lead us to Mount Thabor it is but for one brief moment . . . the pasture land is nearly always in the valleys, |it is there
that He takes His rest at mid-day.|
October 20, 1893.
MY DEAR SISTER, -- I find in the Canticle of Canticles this passage which may be fitly applied to you: |What dost thou see in thy beloved but a band of musicians in an armed camp?| Through suffering, your life has in truth become a battle-field, and there must be a band of musicians, so you shall be the little harp of Jesus. But no concert is complete without singing, and if Jesus plays, must not Celine make melody with her voice? When the music is plaintive, she will sing the songs of exile; when the music is gay, she will lilt the airs of her Heavenly Home. . . .
Whatever may happen, all earthly events, be they happy or sad, will be but distant sounds, unable to awake a vibration from the harp of Jesus. He reserves to Himself alone the right of lightly touching its strings.
I cannot think without delight of that sweet saint, Cecilia. What an example she gives us! In the midst of a pagan world, in the very heart of danger, at the moment when she was to be united to a man whose love was so utterly of earth, it seems to me as if she should have wept and trembled with fear. But instead, |during the music of the marriage-feast Cecilia kept singing in her heart.| What perfect resignation! No doubt she heard other melodies than those of this world; her Divine Spouse too was singing, and the Angels repeated in chorus the refrain of Bethlehem's blessed night: |Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of goodwill.|
The Glory of God! St. Cecilia understood it well, and longed for it with all her heart. She guessed that her Jesus was thirsting for souls . . . and that is why her whole desire was to bring to Him quickly the soul of the young Roman, whose only thought was of human glory. This wise Virgin will make of him a Martyr, and multitudes will follow in his footsteps. She knows no fear: the Angels in their song made promise of peace. She knows that the Prince of Peace is bound to protect her, to guard her virginity, and to make her recompense. . . . |Oh, how beautiful is the chaste generation!|
Dearest sister, I hardly know what I write; I let my pen follow the dictates of my heart. You tell me that you feel your weakness, but that is a grace. It is Our Lord Who sows the seeds of distrust of self in your soul. Do not be afraid! If you do not fail to give Him pleasure in small things, he will be obliged to help you in great ones.
The Apostles laboured long without Him, they toiled a whole night and caught no fish. Their labours were not inacceptable to him, but He wished to prove that He is the Giver of all things. So an act of humility was asked of the Apostles, and Our loving Lord called to them: |Children, have you anything to eat?| St. Peter, avowing his helplessness, cried out: |Lord, we have laboured all the night, and have taken nothing.| It is enough, the Heart of Jesus is touched. . . . Had the Apostle caught some small fish, perhaps our Divine Master would not have worked a miracle; but he had caught nothing, and so through the power and goodness of God his nets were soon filled with great fishes. Such is Our Lord's way. He gives as God -- with divine largesse -- but He insists on humility of heart.
July 7, 1894.
MY DEAR LITTLE SISTER, -- I do not know if you are still in the same frame of mind as when you last wrote to me; I presume that you are, and I answer with this passage of the Canticle of Canticles, which explains so well the state of a soul in utter dryness, a soul which cannot find joy or consolation in anything: |I went down into the garden of nut-trees to see the fruits of the valleys, and to look if the vineyard had flourished, and the pomegranates were in bud. I no longer knew where I was: my soul was troubled because of the chariots of Aminadab.|
There is the true picture of our souls. Often we go down in the fertile valleys where our heart loves to find its nourishment; and the vast fields of Holy Scripture, which have so often opened to yield us richest treasures, now seem but an arid and waterless waste. We no longer even know where we stand. In place of peace and light, all is sorrow and darkness. But, like the Spouse in the Canticles, we know the cause of this trial: |My soul was troubled because of the chariots of Aminadab.| We are not as yet in our true country, and as gold is tired in the fire so must our souls be purified by temptation. We sometimes think we are abandoned. Alas! the chariots -- that is to say, the idle clamours which beset and disturb us -- are they within the soul or without? We cannot tell, but Jesus knows; He sees all our grief, and in the night, on a sudden, His Voice is heard: |Return, return, O Sulamitess: return, return, that we may behold thee.|
O gracious call! We dared no longer even look upon ourselves, the sight filled us with horror, and Jesus calls us that He may look upon us at leisure. He wills to see us; He comes, and with Him come the other two Persons of the Adorable Trinity to take possession of our soul.
Our Lord had promised this, when, with unspeakable tenderness, He had said of old: |If anyone love Me he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him.| To keep the word of Jesus, then, is one condition of our happiness, the proof of our love for Him; and this word seems to me to be His very Self, for He calls Himself the Uncreated Word of the Father.
In the same Gospel of St. John He makes the sublime prayer: |Sanctify them by Thy word, Thy word is truth.| And in another passage Jesus teaches us that He is |the Way and the Truth and the Life.| We know, then, what is this word which must be kept; we cannot say, like Pilate: |What is truth?| We possess the Truth, for our Beloved dwells in our hearts.
Often this Beloved is to us a bundle of myrrh. We share the chalice of His sufferings; but how sweet it will be to us one day to hear these gentle words: |You are they who have continued with Me in My temptations, and I dispose to you, as My Father hath disposed to Me, a kingdom.|
August 19, 1894.
This is perhaps the last time that I need have recourse to writing in order to talk to you, my dear little sister. God in His goodness has granted my dearest wish. Come, and we will suffer together . . . Then Jesus will take one of us, and the others will remain in exile yet a little longer. Now, listen well to what I am going to say: God will never, never separate us; and if I die before you, do not think that I shall be far away -- never shall we have been more closely united. You must not be grieved at my childish prophecy. I am not ill, I have an iron constitution; but the Lord can break iron as if it were clay.
Our dear Father makes his presence felt in a way which touches me deeply. After a death lasting for five long years, what joy to find him as he used to be, nay, more a father than ever! How well he is going to repay you for the care you so generously bestowed on him! You were his Angel, now he will be yours. He has only been one month in heaven, and already, through the power of his intercession, all your plans are succeeding. It is easy for him now to arrange matters for us, and he has had less to suffer on Celine's account than he had for his poor little Queen.
For a long time you have been asking me for news about the noviciate, especially about my work, and now I am going to satisfy you. In my dealings with the novices I am like a setter on the scent of game. The role gives me much anxiety because it so very exacting. You shall decide for yourself if this be not the case. All day long, from morn till night, I am in pursuit of game. Mother Prioress and the Novice Mistress play the part of sportsmen -- but sportsmen are too big to be creeping through the cover, whereas a little dog can push its way in anywhere . . . and then its scent is so keen! I keep a close watch upon my little rabbits; I do not want to do them any harm, but I tell them gently: |You must keep your fur glossy, and must not look foolishly about as does a rabbit of the warren.| In fact, I try to make them such as the Hunter of Souls would have them, simple little creatures that go on browsing heedless of everything else.
I laugh now, but seriously I am quite convinced that one of these rabbits -- you know which one I mean -- is worth a hundred times more than the setter; it has run through many a danger, and I own that, had I been in its place, I should have long since been lost for ever in the great forest of the world.
I am so glad, dearest Celine, that you do not feel any particular attraction at the thought of entering the Carmel. This is really a mark of Our Lord's favour, and shows that He looks for a gift from your hands. He knows that it is so much sweeter to give than to receive. What happiness to suffer for Him Who loves us even unto folly, and to pass for fools in the eyes of the world! We judge others by ourselves, and, as the world will not hearken to reason, it calls us unreasonable too.
We may console ourselves, we are not the first. Folly was the only crime with which Herod could reproach Our Lord . . . and, after all, Herod was right. Yes, indeed, it was folly to come and seek the poor hearts of mortal men to make them thrones for Him, the King of Glory, Who sitteth above the Cherubim! Was He not supremely happy in the company of His Father and the Holy Spirit of Love? Why, then, come down on earth to seek sinners and make of them His closest friends? Nay, our folly could never exceed His, and our deeds are quite within the bounds of reason. The world may leave us alone. I repeat, it is the world that is insane, because it heeds not what Jesus has done and suffered to save it from eternal damnation.
We are neither idlers nor spendthrifts. Our Divine Master has taken our defence upon Himself. Remember the scene in the house of Lazarus: Martha was serving, while Mary had no thought of food but only of how she could please her Beloved. And |she broke her alabaster box, and poured out upon her Saviour's Head the precious spikenard, and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.|
The Apostles murmured against Magdalen. This still happens, for so do men murmur against us. Even some fervent Catholics think our ways are exaggerated, and that -- with Martha -- we ought to wait upon Jesus, instead of pouring out on Him the odorous ointment of our lives. Yet what does it matter if these ointment-jars -- our lives -- be broken, since Our Lord is consoled, and the world in spite of itself is forced to inhale the perfumes they give forth? It has much need of these perfumes to purify the unwholesome air it breathes.
For a while only, good-bye, dearest sister. Your barque is near to port. The breezes filling its sails are the zephyrs of Love -- breezes that speed more swiftly than the lightning-flash. Good-bye! in a few days we shall be together within these Carmel walls . . . and in the after days together in Paradise. Did not Jesus say during His Passion: |Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the power of God and coming in the clouds of heaven|? . . . We shall be there!
St. John of the Cross.
Cf. Ps.136:1, 4.
It is remarkable that Soeur Therese applied this name to her sister Celine, who, under her inspiration, was later to reproduce so faithfully the true likeness of Our Lord, from the Holy Winding Sheet of Turin. [Ed.] [Remainder of long footnote, discussing this likeness, its reproduction, and related matters, omitted from this electronic edition.]
Soeur Therese received the veil on September 24, 1890.
St. John of the Cross: The Night of the Soul, 8th stanza.
St. John of the Cross.
Imit., Bk. I, ch. ii.3.
Ib., Bk. II, ch. xi.4.
Ib., Bk. III, ch. xlix.7.
St. John of the Cross.
Cf. Luke 15:31.
Office of St. Cecilia.
Luke 5:5. Soeur Therese joins in one the two miraculous draughts of fishes. [Ed.]
Cf. Cant.6:10, 11.
Cf. John 17:17.
Luke 22:28, 29.
Cf. Mark 14:3.
LETTERS TO MOTHER AGNES OF JESUS
(Written in 1887, shortly before Therese entered the Carmel.)
MY DARLING LITTLE MOTHER, -- You are right when you tell me that every cup must contain its drop of gall. I find that trials are a great help towards detachment from the things of earth: they make one look higher than this world. Nothing here can satisfy, and we can find rest only in holding ourselves ready to do God's will.
My frail barque has great difficulty in reaching port. I sighted it long since, and still I find myself afar off. Yet Jesus steers this little barque, and I am sure that on His appointed day it will come safely to the blessed haven of the Carmel. O Pauline! when Jesus shall have vouchsafed me this grace, I wish to give myself entirely to Him, to suffer always for Him, to live for Him alone. I do not fear His rod, for even when the smart is keenest we feel that it is His sweet Hand which strikes.
It is such joy to think that for each pain cheerfully borne we shall love God more through eternity. Happy should I be if at the hour of my death I could offer Jesus a single soul. There would be one soul less in hell, and one more to bless God in Heaven.
(Written during her retreat before receiving the habit.)
Dryness and drowsiness -- such is the state of my soul in its intercourse with Jesus! But since my Beloved wishes to sleep I shall not prevent Him. I am only too happy that He does not treat me as a stranger, but rather in a homely way. He riddles his |little ball| with pin-pricks that hurt indeed, though when they come from the Hand of this loving Friend, the pain is all sweetness, so gentle in His touch. How different the hand of man!
Yet I am happy, most happy to suffer! If Jesus Himself does not pierce me, He guides the hand which does. Mother! If you knew how utterly indifferent to earthly things I desire to be, and of how little concern to me are all the beauties of creation. I should be wretched were I to possess them. My heart seems so vast when I think of the goods of earth -- all of them together unable to fill it. But by the side of Jesus how small does it appear! He is full good to me -- this God who soon will be my Spouse. He is divinely lovable for not permitting me to be the captive of any passing joy. He knows well that if He sent me but a shadow of earthly happiness I should cling to it with all the intense ardour of my heart, and He refuses even this shadow . . . He prefers to leave me in darkness, rather than afford me a false glimmer which would not be Himself.
I do not wish creatures to have one atom of my love. I wish to give all to Jesus, since He makes me understand that He alone is perfect happiness. All! -- all shall be for Him! And even when I have nothing, as is the case to-night, I will give Him this nothing . . .
. . . . . . .
I have a longing for those heart-wounds, those pin-pricks which inflict so much pain. I know of no ecstasy to which I do not prefer sacrifice. There I find happiness, and there alone. The slender reed has no fear of being broken, for it is planted beside the waters of Love. When, therefore, it bends before the gale, it gathers strength in the refreshing stream, and longs for yet another storm to pass and sway its head. My very weakness makes me strong. No harm can come to me since, in whatever happens, I see only the tender Hand of Jesus . . . Besides, no suffering is too big a price to pay for the glorious palm.
(Written during her retreat before profession.)
MY DEAREST MOTHER, -- Your little hermit must give you an account of her journey. Before starting, my Beloved asked me in what land I wished to travel, and what road I wished to take. I told him that I had only one desire, that of reaching the summit of the Mountain of Love.
Thereupon roads innumerable spread before my gaze, but so many of these were perfect that I felt incapable of choosing any of my own free will. Then I said to my Divine Guide: |Thou knowest where lies the goal of my desire, and for Whose sake I would climb the Mountain. Thou knowest Who possesses the love of my heart. For Him only I set out on this journey; lead me therefore by the paths of His choosing: my joy shall be full if only He is pleased.|
And Our Lord took me by the hand, and led me through an underground passage where it is neither hot nor cold, where the sun shines not, and where neither wind nor rain can enter -- a place where I see nothing but a half-veiled light, the light that gleams from the downcast Eyes of the Face of Jesus.
My Spouse speaks not a word, and I say nothing save that I love Him more than myself; and in the depths of my heart I know this is true, for I am more His than mine. I cannot see that we are advancing toward our journey's goal since we travel by a subterranean way; and yet, without knowing how, it seems to me that we are nearing the summit of the Mountain.
I give thanks to my Jesus for making me walk in darkness, and in this darkness I enjoy profound peace. Willingly do I consent to remain through all my religious life in this gloomy passage into which He has led me. I desire only that my darkness may obtain light for sinners. I am content, nay, full of joy, to be without all consolation. I should be ashamed if my love were like that of those earthly brides who are ever looking for gifts from their bridegrooms, or seeking to catch the loving smile which fills them with delight.
Therese, the little Spouse of Jesus, loves Him for Himself; she only looks on the Face of her Beloved to catch a glimpse of the Tears which delight her with their secret charm. She longs to wipe away those Tears, or to gather them up like priceless diamonds with which to adorn her bridal dress. Jesus! . . . Oh! I would so love Him! Love Him as He has never yet been loved! . . .
At all cost I must win the palm of St. Agnes; if it cannot be mine through blood, I must win it by Love.
Love can take the place of a long life. Jesus does not consider time, for He is Eternal. He only looks at the love. My little Mother, beg Him to bestow it upon me in full measure. I do not desire that thrill of love which I can feel; if Jesus feel its thrill, then that is enough for me. It is so sweet to love Him, to make Him loved. Ask Him to take me to Him on my profession-day, if by living on I should ever offend Him, because I wish to bear unsullied to Heaven the white robe of my second Baptism. Now Jesus can grant me the grace never to offend Him more, or rather never to commit any faults but those which do not offend Him or give Him pain; faults which serve but to humble me and strengthen my love. There is no one to lean on apart from Jesus. He alone faileth not, and it is exceeding joy to think that He can never change.
MY DEAREST LITTLE MOTHER, -- Your letter has done me such good. The sentence: |Let us refrain from saying a word which could raise us in the eyes of others,| has indeed enlightened my soul. Yes, we must keep all for Jesus with jealous care. It is so good to work for Him alone. How it fills the heart with joy, and lends wings to the soul! Ask of Jesus that Therese -- His grain of sand -- may save Him a multitude of souls in a short space of time, so that she may the sooner behold His Adorable Face.
Here is the dream of this |grain of sand|: Love Jesus alone, and naught else beside! The grain of sand is so small that if it wished to open its heart to any other but Jesus, there would no longer be room for this Beloved.
What happiness to be so entirely hidden that no one gives us a thought -- to be unknown even to those with whom we live! My little Mother, I long to be unknown to everyone of God's creatures! I have never desired glory amongst men, and if their contempt used to attract my heart, I have realized that even this is too glorious for me, and I thirst to be forgotten.
The Glory of Jesus -- this is my sole ambition. I abandon my glory to Him; and if He seem to forget me, well, He is free to do so since I am no longer my own, but His. He will weary sooner of making me wait than I shall of waiting.
[One day when Soeur Therese was suffering acutely from feverishness, one of the Sisters urged her to help in a difficult piece of painting. For a moment Therese's countenance betrayed an inward struggle, which did not escape the notice of Mother Agnes of Jesus. That same evening Therese wrote her the following letter.]
May 28, 1897.
MY DEAREST MOTHER, -- I have just been shedding sweet tears -- tears of repentance, but still more of thankfulness and love. To-day I showed you the treasure of my patience, and how virtuous I am -- I who preach so well to others! I am glad that you have seen my want of perfection. You did not scold me, and yet I deserved it. But at all times your gentleness speaks to me more forcibly than would severe words. To me you are the image of God's Mercy.
Sister N., on the contrary, is more often the image of God's severity. Well, I have just met her, and, instead of passing me coldly by, she embraced me and said: |Poor little Sister, I am so sorry . . . I do not want to tire you; it was wrong of me to ask your help; leave the work alone.| In my heart I felt perfect sorrow, and I was much surprised to escape all blame. I know she must really deem me imperfect. She spoke in this way because she thinks I am soon to die. However that may be, I have heard nothing but kind and tender words from her; and so I consider her most kind, and myself an unamiable creatures.
When I returned to our cell, I was wondering what Jesus thought, when all at once I remembered His words to the woman taken in adultery: |Hath no man condemned thee?| With tears in my eyes, I answered Him: |No one, Lord, . . . neither my little Mother -- the image of Thy Mercy -- nor Sister N., the image of Thy Justice. I feel that I can go in peace, because neither wilt Thou condemn me.|
I confess I am much happier because of my weakness than if -- sustained by grace -- I had been a model of patience. It does me so much good to see that Jesus is always sweet and tender towards me. Truly it is enough to make me die of grateful love.
My little Mother, you will understand how this evening the vessel of God's Mercy has overflowed for your child. . . . Even now I know it! Yea, all my hopes will be fulfilled . . .
VERILY THE LORD WILL WORK WONDERS FOR ME, AND THEY WILL INFINITELY SURPASS MY BOUNDLESS DESIRES.
Soeur Therese here alludes to the probable opinion of theologians that -- as in Baptism -- all stain of sin is removed and all temporal punishment for sin remitted, by the vows taken on the day of religious profession. [Ed.]
LETTERS TO SISTER MARY OF THE SACRED HEART
February 21, 1888.
MY DEAR MARIE, -- You cannot think what a lovely present Papa made me last week; I believe if I gave you a hundred or even a thousand guesses you would never find out what it was. Well, my dear Father bought me a new-born lamb, all white and fleecy. He said that before I entered the Carmel he wanted me to have this pleasure. We were all delighted, especially Celine. What touched me more than anything was Papa's thoughtfulness. Besides, a lamb is symbolic, and it made me think of Pauline.
So far, so good, but now for the sequel. We were already building castles in the air, and expected that in two or three days the lamb would be frisking round us. But the pretty creature died that same afternoon. Poor little thing, scarcely was it born when it suffered and died. It looked so gentle and innocent that Celine made a sketch of it, and then we laid it in a grave dug by Papa. It appeared to be asleep. I did not want the earth to be its covering, so we put snow upon our pet, and all was over.
You do not know, dearest Godmother, how this little creature's death has made me reflect. Clearly we must not become attached to anything, no matter how innocent, because it will slip from our grasp when least expected; nothing but the eternal can content us.
(Written during her retreat before receiving the habit.)
January 8, 1889.
Your little Lamb -- as you love to call me, dearest sister -- would borrow from you some strength and courage. I cannot speak to Our Lord, and He is silent too. Pray that my retreat may be pleasing to the Heart of Him Who alone reads the secrets of the soul.
Life is full of sacrifice, it is true, but why seek happiness here? For life is but |a night to be spent in a wretched inn,| as our holy Mother St. Teresa says. I assure you my heart thirsts ardently for happiness, but I see clearly that no creature can quench that thirst. On the contrary, the oftener I would drink from these seductive waters the more burning will my thirst become. I know a source where |they that drink shall yet thirst,| but with a delicious thirst, a thirst one can always allay. . . . That source is the suffering known to Jesus only.
August 14, 1889.
You ask for a word from your little Lamb. But what shall I say? Is it not you who have taught me? Remember those days when I sat upon your knee, and you talked to me of Heaven.
I can still hear you say: |Look at those who want to become rich, and see how they toil to obtain money. Now, my little Therese, through every moment of the day and with far less trouble, we can lay up riches in Heaven. Diamonds are so plentiful, we can gather them together as with a rake, and we do this by performing all our actions for the love of God.| Then I would leave you, my heart overflowing with joy, and fully bent on amassing great wealth.
Time has flown since those happy hours spent together in our dear nest. Jesus has visited us, and has found us worthy to be tried in the crucible of suffering. God has said that on the last day |He will wipe away all tears from our eyes,| and no doubt the more tears there are to dry, the greater will be the happiness.
Pray to-morrow for the little one who owes you her upbringing, and who, without you, might never have come to the Carmel.
(During her retreat before profession)
September 4, 1890.
The heavenly music falls but faintly on the ear of your child, and it has been a dreary journey towards her Bridal Day. It is true her Betrothed has led her through fertile lands and gorgeous scenery, but the dark night has prevented her admiring, much less revelling in, the beauty all around. Perhaps you think this grieved her. Oh, no! she is happy to follow her Betrothed for His own sake, and not for the sake of His gifts. He is so ravishingly beautiful, even when silent -- even when concealed. Weary of earthly consolation, your little child wishes for her Beloved alone. I believe that the work of Jesus during this retreat has been to detach me from everything but Himself. My only comfort is the exceeding strength and peace that is mine. Besides, I hope to be just what He wills I should be, and in this lies all my happiness.
Did you but know how great is my joy at giving pleasure to Jesus through being utterly deprived of all joy! . . . . Truly this is the very refinement of all joy -- joy we do not feel.
September 7, 1890.
To-morrow I shall be the Spouse of Jesus, of Him Whose |look was as it were hidden and despised.| What a future this alliance opens up! How can I thank Him, how render myself less unworthy of so great a favour?
I thirst after Heaven, that blessed abode where our love for Jesus will be without bounds. True, we must pass through suffering and tears to reach that home, but I wish to suffer all that my Beloved is pleased to send me; I wish to let Him do as He wills with His |little ball.| You tell me, dearest Godmother, that my Holy Child is beautifully adorned for my wedding-day; perhaps, however, you wonder why I have not put new rose-coloured candles. The old ones appeal to me more because they were lighted for the first time on my clothing-day. They were then fresh and of rosy hue. Papa had given them to me; he was there, and all was joyful. But now their tint has faded. Are there yet any rose-coloured joys on earth for your little Therese? No, for her there are only heavenly joys; joys where the hollowness of all things gives place to the Uncreated Reality.
MY DEAREST SISTER, -- I do not find it difficult to answer you. . . . How can you ask me if it be possible for you to love God as I love Him! My desire for martyrdom is as nothing; it is not to that I owe the boundless confidence that fills my heart. Such desires might be described as spiritual riches, which are the unjust mammon, when one is complacent in them as in something great. . . . These aspirations are a consolation Jesus sometimes grants to weak souls like mine -- and there are many such! But when He withholds this consolation, it is a special grace. Remember these words of a holy monk: |The martyrs suffered with joy, and the King of Martyrs in sorrow.| Did not Jesus cry out: |My father, remove this chalice from Me|? Do not think, then, that my desires are a proof of my love. Indeed I know well that it is certainly not these desires which make God take pleasure in my soul. What does please Him is to find me love my littleness, my poverty: it is the blind trust which I have in His Mercy. . . . There is my sole treasure, dearest Godmother, and why should it not be yours?
Are you not ready to suffer all that God wills? Assuredly; and so if you wish to know joy and to love suffering, you are really seeking your own consolation, because once we love, all suffering disappears. Verily, if we were to go together to martyrdom, you would gain great merit, and I should have none, unless it pleased Our Lord to change my dispositions.
Dear sister, do you not understand that to love Jesus and to be His Victim of Love, the more weak and wretched we are the better material do we make for this consuming and transfiguring Love? . . . The simple desire to be a Victim suffices, but we must also consent to ever remain poor and helpless, and here lies the difficulty: |Where shall we find one that is truly poor in spirit? We must seek him afar off,| says the author of the Imitation. He does not say that we must search among great souls, but |afar off| -- that is to say, in abasement and in nothingness. Let us remain far from all that dazzles, loving our littleness, and content to have no joy. Then we shall be truly poor in spirit, and Jesus will come to seek us however far off we may be, and transform us into flames of Love. . . . I long to make you understand what I feel. Confidence alone must lead us to Love. . . . Does not fear lead to the thought of the strict justice that is threatened to sinners? But that is not the justice Jesus will show to such as love Him.
God would not vouchsafe you the desire to be the Victim of His Merciful Love, were this not a favour in store -- or rather already granted, since you are wholly surrendered unto Him and long to be consumed by Him, and God never inspires a longing which He cannot fulfill.
The road lies clear, and along it we must run together. I feel that Jesus wishes to bestow on us the same graces; He wishes to grant us both a free entrance into His Heavenly Kingdom. Dearest Godmother, you would like to hear still more of the secrets which Jesus confides to your child, but human speech cannot tell what the human heart itself can scarcely conceive. Besides, Jesus confides His secrets to you likewise. This I know, for you it was who taught me to listen to His Divine teaching. On the day of my Baptism you promised in my name that I would serve Him alone. You were the Angel who led me and guided me in my days of exile and offered me to Our Lord. As a child loves its mother, I love you; in Heaven only will you realise the gratitude with which my heart is full to overflowing.
Your little daughter,
Teresa of the Child Jesus.
She alludes to the Statue of the Holy Child in the cloister, which was under her own special care. [Ed.]
Cf. Imit., II, xi.4.
LETTERS TO SISTER FRANCES TERESA
August 13, 1893.
DEAR LITTLE SISTER, -- At last your desires are satisfied. Like the dove sent forth from the ark, you have been unable to find a spot on earth whereon to rest, and have long been on the wing seeking to re-enter the blessed abode where your heart had for ever fixed its home. Jesus has kept you waiting, but at last, touched by the plaintive cry of His dove, He has put forth His Divine Hand, and, taking hold of it, has set it in His Heart -- that sanctuary of His Love.
It is quite a spiritual joy, this joy of mine. For I shall never look upon you again, never hear your voice as I outpour my heart into yours. Yet I know that earth is but a halting-place to us who journey towards a Heavenly Home. What matter if the routes we follow lie apart? Our goal is the same -- that Heaven where we shall meet, no more to be separated. There we shall taste for ever the sweets of our earthly home. We shall have much to tell one another when this exile is ended. Speech here below is so inadequate, but a single glance will be enough for perfect understanding in our home beyond; and I believe that our happiness will be greater than if we had never been parted here.
Meanwhile we must live by sacrifice. Without it there would be no merit in the religious life. As someone told us in a conference: |The reason why the forest oak raises its head so high is because, hemmed in on all sides, it wastes no sap in putting forth branches underneath, but towers aloft. Thus in the religious life the soul, hedged in all around by the rule and by the practice of community life, of necessity finds there a means of lifting a high head towards Heaven.|
Dearest sister, pray for your little Therese that she may draw profit from her exile on earth and from the plentiful means granted her of meriting Heaven.
DEAR LITTLE SISTER, -- How fruitful for Heaven has been the year that is gone! . . . Our dear Father has seen that which the eye of man cannot see, he has heard the minstrelsy of the angels . . . now his heart understands, and his soul enjoys |the things which God hath prepared for those who love Him.| . . . Our turn will come, and it is full sweet to think our sails are set towards the Eternal Shore.
Do you not find, as I do, that our beloved Father's death has drawn us nearer to Heaven? More than half of our loved ones already enjoy the Vision of God, and the five who remain in exile will follow soon. This thought of the shortness of life gives me courage, and helps me to put up with the weariness of the journey. What matters a little toil upon earth? We pass . . . |We have not here a lasting city.|
Think of your Therese during this month consecrated to the Infant Jesus, and beg of Him that she may always remain a very little child. I will offer the same prayer for you, because I know your desires, and that humility is your favourite virtue.
Which Therese will be the more fervent? . . . She who will be the more humble, the more closely united to Jesus, and the more faithful in making love the mainspring of every action. We must not let slip one single occasion of sacrifice, everything has such value in the religious life . . . Pick up a pin from a motive of love, and you may thereby convert a soul. Jesus alone can make our deeds of such worth, so let us love Him with every fibre of our heart.
July 12, 1896.
MY DEAR LITTLE LEONIE, -- I should have answered your letter last Sunday if it had been given to me, but you know that, being the youngest, I run the risk of not seeing letters for some considerable time after my sisters, and occasionally not at all. I only read yours on Friday, so forgive my delay.
You are right -- Jesus is content with a tender look or a sigh of love. For my part, I find it quite easy to practise perfection, now that I realise it only means making Jesus captive through His Heart. Look at a little child who has just vexed its mother, either by giving way to temper or by disobedience. If it hides in a corner and is sulky, or if it cries for fear of being punished, its mother will certainly not forgive the fault. But should it run to her with its little arms outstreteched, and say; |Kiss me, Mother; I will not do it again!| what mother would not straightway clasp her child lovingly to her heart, and forget all it had done? . . . She knows quite well that her little one will repeat the fault -- no matter, her darling will escape all punishment so long as it makes appeal to her heart.
Even when the law of fear was in force, before Our Lord's coming, the prophet Isaias said -- speaking in the name of the King of Heaven: |Can a woman forget her babe? . . . And if she should forget, yet will I not forget thee.| What a touching promise! We who live under the law of Love, shall we not profit by the loving advances made by our Spouse? How can anybody fear Him Who allows Himself to be made captive |with one hair of our neck|?
Let us learn to keep Him prisoner -- this God, the Divine Beggar of love. By telling us that a single hair can work this wonder, He shows us that the smallest actions done for His Love are those which charm His Heart. If it were necessary to do great things, we should be deserving of pity, but we are happy beyond measure, because Jesus lets Himself be led captive by the smallest action. . . . With you, dear Leonie, little sacrifices are never lacking. Is not your life made up of them? I rejoice to see you in presence of such wealth, especially when I remember that you know how to make profit thereby, not only for yourself but likewise for poor sinners. It is so sweet to help Jesus to save the souls which He has ransomed at the price of His Precious Blood, and which only await our help to keep them from the abyss.
It seems to me that if our sacrifices take Jesus captive, our joys make Him prisoner too. All that is needful to attain this end is, that instead of giving ourselves over to selfish happiness, we offer to our Spouse the little joys He scatters in our path, to charm our hearts and draw them towards Him.
You ask for news of my health. Well, my cough has quite disappeared. Does that please you? It will not prevent Our Lord from taking me to Himself whensoever He wishes. And I need not prepare for that journey, since my whole endeavour is to remain as a little child. Jesus Himself must pay all its expenses, as well as the price of my admission to Heaven.
Good-bye, dearest one, pray to Him without fail for the last and least of your sisters.
July 17, 1897.
MY DEAR LEONIE, -- I am so pleased to be able to write to you again. Some days ago I thought I should never again have this consolation, but it seems God wishes to prolong somewhat the time of my exile. This does not trouble me -- I would not enter Heaven one moment sooner through my own will. The only real happiness on earth is to strive always to think |how goodly is the chalice| that Jesus give us. Yours is indeed a goodly one, dear Leonie. If you wish to be a Saint -- and it will not be hard -- keep only one end in view: give pleasure to Jesus, and bind yourself more closely to Him.
Good-bye, my dear sister, I should wish the thought of my entering Heaven to fill you with joy, because I shall then be better able to give you proof of my tender love. In the Heart of our Heavenly Spouse we shall live His very life, and through eternity I shall remain,
Your very little sister,
TERESA OF THE CHILD JESUS.
Nearly all the letters written by Soeur Therese to her sister Leonie are lost. These few have been recovered. It will be remembered that Leonie entered the Convent of the Visitation at Caen. See note, page 113.
Cf. I Cor.2:9.
LETTERS TO HER COUSIN MARIE GUERIN
Before you confided in me, I felt you were suffering, and my heart was one with yours. Since you have the humility to ask advice of your little Therese, this is what she thinks: you have grieved me greatly by abstaining from Holy Communion, because you have grieved Our Lord. The devil must be very cunning to deceive a soul in this way. Do you not know, dear Marie, that by acting thus you help him to accomplish his end? The treacherous creature knows quite well that when a soul is striving to belong wholly to God he cannot cause her to sin, so he merely tries to persuade her that she has sinned. This is a considerable gain, but not enough to satisfy his hatred, so he aims at something more, and tries to shut out Jesus from a tabernacle which Jesus covets. Unable to enter this sanctuary himself, he wishes that at least it remain empty and without its God. Alas, what will become of that poor little heart? When the devil has succeeded in keeping a soul from Holy Communion he has gained all his ends . . . while Jesus weeps! . . .
Remember, little Marie, that this sweet Jesus is there in the Tabernacle expressly for you and you alone. Remember that He burns with the desire to enter your heart. Do not listen to satan. Laugh him to scorn, and go without fear to receive Jesus, the God of peace and of love.
|Therese thinks all this| -- you say -- |because she does not know my difficulties.| She does know, and knows them well; she understands everything, and she tells you confidently that you can go without fear to receive your only true Friend. She, too, has passed through the martyrdom of scruples, but Jesus gave her the grace to receive the Blessed Sacrament always, even when she imagined she had committed great sins. I assure you I have found that this is the only means of ridding oneself of the devil. When he sees that he is losing his time he leaves us in peace.
In truth it is impossible that a heart which can only find rest in contemplation of the Tabernacle -- and yours is such, you tell me -- could so far offend Our Lord as not to be able to receive Him . . . What does offend Jesus, what wounds Him to the Heart, is want of confidence.
Pray much that the best portion of your life may not be overshadowed by idle fears. We have only life's brief moments to spend for the Glory of God, and well does satan know it. This is why he employs every ruse to make us consume them in useless labour. Dear sister, go often to Holy Communion, go very often -- that is your one remedy.
You are like some little village maiden who, when sought in marriage by a mighty king would not dare to accept him, on the plea that she is not rich enough, and is strange to the ways of a court. But does not her royal lover know better than she does, the extent of her poverty and ignorance?
Marie, though you are nothing, do not forget that Jesus is All. You have only to lose your own nothingness in that Infinite All, and thenceforth to think only of that All who alone is worthy of your love.
You tell me you wish to see the fruit of your efforts. That is exactly what Jesus would hide from you. He likes to contemplate by Himself these little fruits of our virtue. They console Him.
You are quite wrong, Marie, if you think that Therese walks eagerly along the way of Sacrifice: her weakness is still very great, and every day some new and wholesome experience brings this home more clearly. Yet Jesus delights to teach her how to glory in her infirmities. It is a great grace, and I pray Him to give it to you, for with it come peace and tranquillity of heart. When we see our misery we do not like to look at ourselves but only upon our Beloved.
You ask me for a method of obtaining perfection. I know of Love -- and Love only! Our hearts are made for this alone. Sometimes I endeavour to find some other word for love; but in a land of exile |words which have a beginning and an end| are quite unable to render adequately the emotions of the soul, and so we must keep to the one simple word -- LOVE.
But on whom shall our poor hearts lavish this love, and who will be worthy of this treasure? Is there anyone who will understand it and -- above all -- is there anyone who will be able to repay? Marie, Jesus alone understands love: He alone can give back all -- yea, infinitely more than the utmost we can give.
The allusion is to the scruples from which Marie suffered. Having read this letter -- which is a strong plea for Frequent Communion -- Pope Pius X declared it |most opportune.| Therese was but fifteen when she wrote it. [Ed.]
LETTER TO HER COUSIN, JEANNE GUERIN (MADAME LA NEELE)
It is a very great sacrifice that God has asked of you, my dear Jeanne, in calling your little Marie to the Carmel; but remember that He has promised a hundredfold to anyone who for His Love hath left father or mother or sister. Now, for love of Jesus, you have not hesitated to part with a sister dearer to you than words can say, and therefore He is bound to keep His promise. I know that these words are generally applied to those who enter the religious life, but my heart tells me they were spoken, too, for those whose generosity is such that they will sacrifice to God even the loved ones they hold dearer than life itself. ____________________________
LETTERS TO HER BROTHER MISSIONARIES
Our Divine Lord asks no sacrifice beyond our strength. At times, it is true, He makes us taste to the full the bitterness of the chalice He puts to our lips. And when He demands the sacrifice of all that is dearest on earth, it is impossible without a very special grace not to cry out as He did during His Agony in the Garden: |My Father, let this chalice pass from me!| But we must hasten to add: |Yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.| It is so consoling to think that Jesus, |the Strong God,| has felt all our weaknesses and shuddered at the sight of the bitter chalice -- that very chalice He had so ardently desired.
Your lot is indeed a beautiful one, since Our Lord has chosen it for you, and has first touched with His own Lips the cup which He holds out to yours. A Saint has said: |The greatest honour God can bestow upon a soul is not to give to it great things, but to ask of it great things.| Jesus treats you as a privileged child. It is His wish you should begin your mission even now, and save souls through the Cross. Was it not by suffering and death that He ransomed the world? I know that you aspire to the happiness of laying down your life for Him; but the martyrdom of the heart is not less fruitful than the shedding of blood, and this martyrdom is already yours. Have I not, then, good reason to say that your lot is a beautiful one -- worthy an apostle of Christ?
Let us work together for the salvation of souls! We have but the one day of this life to save them, and so give to Our Lord a proof of our love. To-morrow will be Eternity, then Jesus will reward you a hundredfold for the sweet joys you have given up for Him. He knows the extent of your sacrifice. He knows that the sufferings of those you hold dear increase your own; but He has suffered this same martyrdom for our salvation. He, too, left His Mother; He beheld that sinless Virgin standing at the foot of the Cross, her heart pierced through with a sword of sorrow, and I hope he will console your own dear mother. . . . I beg Him most earnestly to do so.
Ah! If the Divine Master would permit those you are about to leave for His Love but one glimpse of the glory in store, and the vast retinue of souls that will escort you to Heaven, already they would be repaid for the great sacrifice that is at hand.
February 24, 1896.
Please say this little prayer for me each day; it sums up all my desires:
|Merciful Father, in the name of Thy sweet Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin, and all the Saints, I beg Thee to consume my sister with Thy spirit of love, and to grant her the grace to make Thee greatly loved.|
If Our Lord takes me soon to Himself, I ask you still to continue this prayer, because my longing will be the same in Heaven as upon earth: to love Jesus and to make Him loved.
. . . . . . .
All I desire is God's Holy Will, and if in Heaven I could no longer work for His glory, I should prefer exile to Home.
June 21, 1897
You may well sing of the Mercies of God! They shine forth in you with splendour. You love St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalen, those souls to whom many sins were forgiven because they loved much. I love them too; I love their sorrow, and especially their audacious love. When I see Mary Magdalen come forth before all Simon's guests to wash with her tears her Master's Feet -- those Feet that for the first time she touches -- I feel her heart has fathomed that abyss of love and mercy, the Heart of Jesus; and I feel, too, that not only was He willing to forgive, but even liberally to dispense the favours of a Divine and intimate friendship, and to raise her to the loftiest heights of prayer.
My Brother, since I also have been given to understand the Love of the Heart of Jesus, I confess that all fear has been driven from mine. The remembrance of my faults humbles me; and it helps me never to rely upon my own strength -- which is but weakness -- but more than all, it speaks to me of mercy and of love. When a soul with childlike trust casts her faults into Love's all-devouring furnace, how shall they escape being utterly consumed?
I know that many Saints have passed their lives in the practice of amazing penance for the sake of expiating their sins. But what of that? |In my Father's house there are many mansions.| These are the words of Jesus, and therefore I follow the path He marks out for me; I try to be nowise concerned about myself and what Jesus deigns to accomplish in my soul.
On this earth where everything changes, one thing alone does never change -- our Heavenly King's treatment of His friends. From the day He raised the standard of the Cross, in its shadow all must fight and win. |The life of every missionary abounds in crosses,| said Theophane Venard. And again: |True happiness consists in suffering, and in order to live we must die.|
Rejoice, my Brother, that the first efforts of your Apostolate are stamped with the seal of the Cross. Far more by suffering and by persecution than by eloquent discourses does Jesus wish to build up His Kingdom.
You are still -- you tell me -- a little child who cannot speak. Neither could Father Mazel, who was ordained with you, and yet he has already won the palm . . . Far beyond our thoughts are the thoughts of God! When I learnt that this young missionary had died before he had set foot on the field of his labours, I felt myself drawn to invoke him. I seemed to see him amidst the glorious Martyr choir. No doubt, in the eyes of men he does not merit the title of Martyr, but in the eyes of God this inglorious death is no less precious than the sacrifice of him who lays down his life for the Faith.
Though one must be exceeding pure before appearing in the sight of the All-Holy God, still I know that He is infinitely just, and this very Justice which terrifies so many souls is the source of all my confidence and joy. Justice is not only stern severity towards the guilty; it takes account of the good intention, and gives to virtue its reward. Indeed I hope as much from the Justice of God as from His Mercy. It is because He is just, that |He is compassionate and merciful, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy. For He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust. As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on us.|
O my Brother, after these beautiful and consoling words of the Royal Prophet, how can we doubt God's power to open the gates of His Kingdom to His children who have loved Him unto perfect sacrifice, who have not only left home and country so as to make Him known and loved, but even long to lay down their lives for Him? . . . Jesus said truly there is no greater love than this. Nor will He be outdone in generosity. How could He cleanse in the flames of Purgatory souls consumed with the fire of Divine Love?
I have used many words to express my thought, and yet I fear I have failed. What I wish to convey is, that in my opinion all missionaries are Martyrs by will and desire, and not even one should pass through the purifying flames.
This, then, is what I think about the Justice of God; my own way is all confidence and love, and I cannot understand those souls who are afraid of so affectionate a Friend. Sometimes, when I read books in which perfection is put before us with the goal obstructed by a thousand obstacles, my poor little head is quickly fatigued. I close the learned treatise, which tires my brain and dries up my heart, and I turn to the Sacred Scriptures. Then all becomes clear and lightsome -- a single word opens out infinite vistas, perfection appears easy, and I see that it is enough to acknowledge our nothingness, and like children surrender ourselves into the Arms of the Good God. Leaving to great and lofty minds the beautiful books which I cannot understand, still less put in practice, I rejoice in my littleness because |only little children and those who are like them shall be admitted to the Heavenly banquet.| Fortunately -- |there are many mansions in my Father's House|: if there were only those -- to me -- incomprehensible mansions with their baffling roads, I should certainly never enter there . . .
July 13, 1897.
Your soul is too great to cling to the consolations of earth, and even now its abode should be in Heaven, for it is written: |Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.| Is not Jesus your only treasure? Now that He is in Heaven, it is there your heart should dwell. This sweet Saviour has long since forgotten your infidelities. He sees only your longing after perfection, and the sight makes glad His Heart.
Stay no longer at His Feet, I beseech you, but follow this first impulse to throw yourself into His Arms. Your place is there, and I see clearly -- more clearly than in your former letters -- that all other heavenly route is barred to you save the way your little sister treads.
I hold with you when you say that the Heart of Jesus is more grieved by the thousand little imperfections of His friends than by the faults, even grave, which His enemies commit. Yet it seems to me, dear Brother, it is only when those who are His own are habitually guilty of want of thought, and neglect to seek His pardon, that He can say: |These Wounds which you see in the midst of My Hands, I have received in the house of those who love Me.| But His Heart thrills with you when He had to deal with all those who truly love, and who after each little fault come to fling themselves into His Arms imploring forgiveness. He says to His Angels what the prodigal's father said to his servants: |Put a ring upon his finger, and let us rejoice.| O Brother! Verily the Divine Heart's Goodness and Merciful Love are little known! It is true that to enjoy these treasures we must humble ourselves, must confess our nothingness . . . and here is where many a soul draws back.
What attracts me towards our Heavenly Home is the Master's call -- the hope of loving Him at last to the fulfilling of all my desire -- the thought that I shall be able to win Him the love of a multitude of souls, who will bless Him through all eternity.
I have never asked God that I might die young -- that to me were a cowardly prayer; but from my childhood He has deigned to inspire me with a strong conviction that my life would be a short one.
I feel we must tread the same road to Heaven -- the road of suffering and love. When I myself have reached the port, I will teach you how best to sail the world's tempestuous sea -- with the self-abandonment of a child well aware of a father's love, and of his vigilance in the hour of danger.
I long so much to make you understand the expectant love of the Heart of Jesus. Your last letter has made my own heart thrill sweetly. I learnt how closely your soul is sister to mine, since God calls that soul to mount to Himself by the lift of love, without climbing the steep stairway of fear. I am not surprised you find it hard to be familiar with Jesus -- one cannot become so in a day; but this I do know, I shall aid you much more to tread this beautiful path when I lay aside the burden of this perishable body. Ere long you will exclaim with St. Augustine: |Love is my lodestone!|
July 26, 1897.
When you read these few lines I shall perhaps be no more. I know not the future; yet I can confidently say that my Spouse is at the door. It would need a miracle to keep me in exile, and I do not think that Jesus will work that miracle -- He does nothing that is of no avail.
Brother, I am so happy to die! Yes, happy . . . not because I shall be free from suffering: on the contrary, suffering combined with love seems the one thing worthy of desire in this vale of tears; but happy to die because far more than on earth I shall help the souls I hold dear.
Jesus has always treated me as a spoilt child. . . . It is true that His Cross has been with me from the cradle, but for that Cross He has given me a passionate love . . .
August 14, 1897.
I am about to go before God, and I understand now more than ever that one thing only is needful -- to work for Him alone, and do nothing for self or creatures. Jesus wishes to own your heart completely. Before this can be, you will have much to suffer . . . but oh! what joy when comes the happy hour of going Home! I shall not die -- I do but enter into Life . . . and whatsoever I cannot tell you here upon earth I will make you understand from the heights of Heaven. . . .
This letter and the following are addressed to a Seminarist. [Ed.]
Ps.102:8, 14, 13.
Cf. Luke 15:22.
PRAYERS OF SOEUR THERESE, THE LITTLE FLOWER OF JESUS
AN ACT OF OBLATION AS A VICTIM OF DIVINE LOVE
This Prayer was found after the death of Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face in the copy of the Gospels which she carried night and day close to her heart.
O my God, O Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to love Thee and to make Thee loved -- to labour for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls here upon earth and by delivering those suffering in Purgatory. I desire to fulfill perfectly Thy Holy Will, and to reach the degree of glory Thou hast prepared for me in Thy Kingdom. In a word, I wish to be holy, but, knowing how helpless I am, I beseech Thee, my God, to be Thyself my holiness.
Since Thou hast loved me so much as to give me Thy Only-Begotten Son to be my Saviour and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. Gladly do I offer them to Thee, and I beg of Thee to behold me only through the Eyes of Jesus, and in His Heart aflame with love. Moreover, I offer Thee all the merits of the Saints both of Heaven and of earth, together with their acts of love, and those of the holy Angels. Lastly, I offer Thee, O Blessed Trinity, the love and the merits of the Blessed Virgin, my dearest Mother -- to her I commit this Oblation, praying her to present it to Thee.
During the days of His life on earth her Divine Son, my sweet Spouse, spake these words: |If you ask the Father anything in My Name, He will give it you.| Therefore I am certain Thou wilt fulfill my longing. O my God, I know that the more Thou wishest to bestow, the more Thou dost make us desire. In my heart I feel boundless desires, and I confidently beseech Thee to take possession of my soul. I cannot receive Thee in Holy Communion as often as I should wish; but, O Lord, art Thou not all-powerful? Abide in me as Thou dost in the Tabernacle -- never abandon Thy Little Victim. I long to console Thee for ungrateful sinners, and I implore Thee to take from me all liberty to sin. If through weakness I should chance to fall, may a glance from Thine Eyes straightway cleanse my soul, and consume all my imperfections -- as fire transforms all things into itself.
I thank Thee, O my God, for all the graces Thou hast granted me: especially for having purified me in the crucible of suffering. At the Day of Judgment I shall gaze on Thee with joy, as Thou bearest Thy sceptre of the Cross. And since Thou hast deigned to give me this precious Cross as my portion, I hope to be like unto Thee in Paradise and to behold the Sacred Wounds of Thy Passion shine on my glorified body.
After earth's exile I trust to possess Thee in the Home of our Father; but I do not seek to lay up treasures in Heaven. I wish to labour for Thy Love alone -- with the sole aim of pleasing Thee, of consoling Thy Sacred Heart, and of saving souls who will love Thee through eternity.
When comes the evening of life, I shall stand before Thee with empty hands, because I do not ask Thee, my God, to take account of my works. All our works of justice are blemished in Thine Eyes. I wish therefore to be robed with Thine own Justice, and to receive from Thy Love the everlasting gift of Thyself. I desire no other Throne, no other Crown but Thee, O my Beloved!
In Thy sight time is naught -- |one day is a thousand years.| Thou canst in a single instant prepare me to appear before Thee.
* * * * * * *
In order that my life may be one Act of perfect Love, I offer myself as a Victim of Holocaust to Thy Merciful Love, imploring Thee to consume me unceasingly, and to allow the floods of infinite tenderness gathered up in Thee to overflow into my soul, that so I may become a very martyr of Thy Love, O my God! May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear in Thy Presence, free me from this life at the last, and may my soul take its flight -- without delay -- into the eternal embrace of Thy Merciful Love!
* * * * * * *
O my Beloved, I desire at every beat of my heart to renew this Oblation an infinite number of times, |till the shadows retire,| and everlastingly I can tell Thee my love face to face.
MARY FRANCES TERESA OF THE CHILD JESUS AND OF THE HOLY FACE.
The ninth of June, Feast of the Most Blessed Trinity, In the year of grace, 1895.
A MORNING PRAYER
O my God! I offer Thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love.
O my God! I ask of Thee for myself and for those whom I hold dear, the grace to fulfil perfectly Thy Holy Will, to accept for love of Thee the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that we may one day be united together in Heaven for all Eternity. Amen.
AN ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE HOLY FACE
Written for the Novices
O Adorable Face of Jesus, since Thou hast deigned to make special choice of our souls, in order to give Thyself to them, we come to consecrate these souls to Thee. We seem, O Jesus, to hear Thee say: |Open to Me, My Sisters, My Spouses, for My Face is wet with the dew, and My Locks with the drops of the night.| Our souls understand Thy language of love; we desire to wipe Thy sweet Face, and to console Thee for the contempt of the wicked. In their eyes Thou art still |as it were hidden . . . they esteem Thee an object of reproach.|
O Blessed Face, more lovely than the lilies and the roses of the spring, Thou art not hidden from us. The tears which dim Thine Eyes are as precious pearls which we delight to gather, and, through their infinite value, to purchase the souls of our brethren.
From Thy Adorable Lips we have heard Thy loving plaint: |I thirst.| Since we know that this thirst which consumes Thee is a thirst for love, to quench it we would wish to possess an infinite love.
Dear Spouse of our souls, if we could love with the love of all hearts, that love would be Thine. . . . Give us, O Lord, this love! Then come to thy Spouses and satisfy Thy Thirst.
And give to us souls, dear Lord . . . We thirst for souls! -- Above all for the souls of Apostles and Martyrs . . . that through them we may inflame all poor sinners with love of Thee.
O Adorable Face, we shall succeed in winning this grace from Thee! Unmindful of our exile, |by the rivers of Babylon,| we will sing in Thine Ears the sweetest of melodies. Since Thou art the true and only Home of our souls, our songs shall not be sung in a strange land. O Beloved Face of Jesus, while we await the Eternal Day when we shall gaze upon Thine Infinite Glory, our only desire is to delight Thy Divine Eyes by keeping our faces hidden too, so that no one on earth may recognize us . . . Dear Jesus, Heaven for us is Thy Hidden Face!
|If you ask the Father anything in My Name, He will give it you.| -- John 16:23.
O Eternal Father, Thy Only-Begotten Son, the dear Child Jesus, belongs to me since Thou hast given Him. I offer Thee the infinite merits of His Divine Childhood, and I beseech Thee in His Name to open the gates of Heaven to a countless host of little ones who will for ever follow this Divine Lamb.
|Just as the King's image is a talisman through which anything may be purchased in his Kingdom, so through My Adorable Face -- that priceless coin of my Humanity -- you will obtain all you desire.| Our Lord to Sister Mary of St. Peter.
Eternal Father, since Thou hast given me for my inheritance the Adorable Face of Thy Divine Son, I offer that Face to Thee, and I beg Thee, in exchange for this coin of infinite value, to forget the ingratitude of those souls who are consecrated to Thee, and to pardon all poor sinners.
PRAYER TO THE HOLY CHILD
O Jesus, dear Holy Child, my only treasure, I abandon myself to Thy every whim. I seek no other joy than that of calling forth Thy sweet Smile. Vouchsafe to me the graces and the virtues of Thy Holy Childhood, so that on the day of my birth into Heaven the Angels and Saints may recognise in Thy Spouse: Teresa of the Child Jesus.
PRAYER TO THE HOLY FACE
O Adorable Face of Jesus, sole beauty which ravisheth my heart, vouchsafe to impress on my soul Thy Divine Likeness, so that it may not be possible for Thee to look at Thy Spouse without beholding Thyself. O my Beloved, for love of Thee I am content not to see here on earth the sweetness of Thy Glance, nor to feel the ineffable Kiss of Thy Sacred Lips, but I beg of Thee to inflame me with Thy Love, so that it may consume me quickly, and that soon Teresa of the Holy Face may behold Thy glorious Countenance in Heaven.
Inspired by the sight of a statue of The Blessed Joan of Arc
O Lord God of Hosts, who hast said in Thy Gospel: |I am not come to bring peace but a sword,| arm me for the combat. I burn to do battle for Thy Glory, but I pray Thee to enliven my courage. . . . Then with holy David I shall be able to exclaim: |Thou alone art my shield; it is Thou, O Lord Who teachest my hands to fight.|
O my Beloved, I know the warfare in which I am to engage; it is not on the open field I shall fight. . . . I am a prisoner held captive by Thy Love; of my own free will I have riveted the fetters which bind me to Thee, and cut me off for ever from the world. My sword is Love! with it -- like Joan of Arc -- |I will drive the strangers from the land, and I will have Thee proclaimed King| -- over the Kingdom of souls.
Of a truth Thou hast no need of so weak an instrument as I, but Joan, thy chaste and valiant Spouse, has said: |We must do battle before God gives the victory.| O my Jesus! I will do battle, then, for Thy love, until the evening of my life. As Thou didst not will to enjoy rest upon earth, I wish to follow Thy example; and then this promise which came from thy Sacred Lips will be fulfilled in me: |If any man minister to me, let him follow Me, and where I am there also shall My servant be, and . . . him will My Father honour.| To be with Thee, to be in Thee, that is my one desire; this promise of fulfilment, which Thou dost give, helps me to bear with my exile as I wait the joyous Eternal Day when I shall see Thee face to face.
PRAYER TO OBTAIN HUMILITY
Written for a Novice
O JESUS! When Thou wast a wayfarer upon earth, Thou didst say: -- |Learn of Me, for I am Meek and Humble of Heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.| O Almighty King of Heaven! my soul indeed finds rest in seeing Thee condescend to wash the feet of Thy Apostles -- |having taken the form of a slave.| I recall the words Thou didst utter to teach me the practice of humility: |I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also. The servant is not greater than his Lord . . . If you know these things, you shall be blessed if you do them.| I understand, dear Lord, these words which come from Thy Meek and Humble Heart, and I wish to put them in practice with the help of Thy grace.
I desire to humble myself in all sincerity, and to submit my will to that of my Sisters, without ever contradicting them, and without questioning whether they have the right to command. No one, O my Beloved! had that right over Thee, and yet Thou didst obey not only the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, but even Thy executioners. And now, in the Holy Eucharist, I see Thee complete Thy self-abasement. O Divine King of Glory, with wondrous humility, Thou dost submit Thyself to all Thy Priests, without any distinction between those who love Thee and those who, alas! are lukewarm or cold in Thy service. They may advance or delay the hour of the Holy Sacrifice: Thou art always ready to come down from Heaven at their call.
O my Beloved, under the white Eucharistic Veil Thou dost indeed appear to me Meek and Humble of Heart! To teach me humility, Thou canst not further abase Thyself, and so I wish to respond to Thy Love, by putting myself in the lowest place, by sharing Thy humiliations, so that I may |have part with Thee| in the Kingdom of Heaven.
I implore Thee, dear Jesus, to send me a humiliation whensoever I try to set myself above others.
And yet, dear Lord, Thou knowest my weakness. Each morning I resolve to be humble, and in the evening I recognise that I have often been guilty of pride. The sight of these faults tempts me to discouragement; yet I know that discouragement is itself but a form of pride. I wish, therefore, O my God, to build all my trust upon Thee. As Thou canst do all things, deign to implant in my soul this virtue which I desire, and to obtain it from Thy Infinite Mercy, I will often say to Thee: |Jesus, Meek and Humble of Heart, make my heart like unto Thine.|
Sister Mary of St. Peter entered the Carmel of Tours in 1840. Three years later she had the first of a series of revelations concerning devotion to the Holy Face as a means of reparation for blasphemy. See Life of Leon Papin-Dupont, known as |The Holy Man of Tours.|
Cf. Ps.143:1, 2.
Cf. John 13:8.
MOTTO OF THE LITTLE FLOWER
From St. John of the Cross
|LOVE IS REPAID BY LOVE ALONE|
|MY DAYS OF GRACE|
Birthday . . . . January 2, 1873
Baptism . . . . January 4, 1873
The Smile of Our Lady . May 10, 1883
First Communion . . May 8, 1884
Confirmation . . . June 14, 1884
Conversion. . . . December 25, 1886
Audience with Leo XIII. November 20, 1887
Entry into the Carmel . April 9, 1888
Clothing . . . . January 10, 1889
Profession. . . . September 8, 1890
Taking of the Veil. . September 24, 1890
Act of Oblation . . June 9, 1895
[ENTRY INTO HEAVEN -- September 30, 1897]
SELECTED POEMS OF SOEUR THERESE, THE LITTLE FLOWER OF JESUS
MY SONG OF TO-DAY
Oh! how I love Thee, Jesus! my soul aspires to Thee -- And yet for one day only my simple prayer I pray!
Come reign within my heart, smile tenderly on me,
To-day, dear Lord, to-day!
But if I dare take thought of what the morrow brings, It fills my fickle heart with dreary, dull dismay;
I crave, indeed, my God, the Cross and sufferings,
But only for to-day!
O sweetest Star of Heaven! O Virgin, spotless, blest, Shining with Jesus' light, guiding to Him my way!
Mother! beneath thy veil let my tired spirit rest,
For this brief passing day!
Soon shall I fly afar among the holy choirs,
Then shall be mine the joy that knoweth no decay;
And then my lips shall sing, to Heaven's angelic lyres, The eternal, glad To-day!
|I find in my Beloved the mountains, the lonely and wooded vales, the distant isles, the murmur of the waters, the soft whisper of the zephyrs . . . the quiet night with its sister the dawn, the perfect solitude -- all that delights and all that fires our love.| -- St. John of the Cross.
I hold full sweet your memory,
My childhood days, so glad, so free.
To keep my innocence, dear Lord, for Thee,
Thy Love came to me night and day,
. . . . . . .
I loved the swallows' graceful flight,
The turtle doves' low chant at night,
The pleasant sound of insects gay and bright,
The grassy vale where doth belong
. . . . . . .
I loved the glow-worm on the sod;
The countless stars, so near to God,
But most I loved, in all the sky abroad,
The shining moon of silver bright,
. . . . . . .
The grass is withered in its bed;
The flowers within my hands are dead.
Would that my weary feet, Jesu! might tread
Thy Heavenly Fields, and I might be
. . . . . . .
My rainbow in the rain-washed skies --
Horizon where my suns arise --
My isle in far-off seas -- pearl I most prize --
Sweet spring and butterflies -- I see
. . . . . . .
In Thee I have the springs, the rills,
The mignonette, the daffodils,
The Eglantine, the harebell on the hills,
The trembling poplar, sighing low
. . . . . . .
The lovely lake, the valley fair
And lonely in the lambent air,
The ocean touched with silver everywhere --
In Thee their treasures, all combined,
. . . . . . .
I go to chant, with Angel-throngs,
The homage that to Thee belongs.
Soon let me fly away, to join their songs!
Oh, let me die of love, I pray,
. . . . . . .
I hear, e'en I, Thy last and least,
The music from Thy Heavenly Feast;
There, deign receive me as Thy loving guest
And, to my harp, let me but sing,
. . . . . . .
Unto the Saints I shall be near,
To Mary, and those once treasured here.
Life is all past, and dried is every tear;
To me my home again is given --
April 28, 1895.
I THIRST FOR LOVE
In wondrous Love, Thou didst come down from Heaven
To immolate Thyself, O Christ, for me;
So, in my turn, my love to Thee is given --
I wish to suffer and to die for Thee.
Thou, Lord, didst speak this truth benign:
|To die for one loved tenderly,
Of greatest love on earth is sign|;
And now, such love is mine --
Such love for Thee!
Do Thou abide with me, O Pilgrim blest!
Behind the hill fast sinks the dying day.
Helped by Thy Cross, I mount the rocky crest;
Oh, come, to guide me on my Heavenward Way.
To be like Thee is my desire;
Thy Voice finds echo in my soul.
Suffering I crave! Thy words of fire
Lift me above earth's mire,
And sin's control.
Chanting Thy victories, gloriously sublime,
The Seraphim -- all Heaven -- cry to me,
That even Thou, to conquer sin and crime,
Upon this earth a sufferer needs must be.
For me upon life's dreary way
What scorn, what anguish, Thou didst bear!
Let me but hide me day by day,
Be least of all, alway,
Thy lot to share.
Ah, Christ! Thy great example teaches me
Myself to humble, honours to despise.
A little one -- as Thou -- I choose to be,
Forgetting self, so I may charm Thine Eyes.
My peace I find in solitude,
Nor ask I more, dear Lord, than this:
Be Thou my sole beatitude,
And ever -- in Thee -- renewed
My joy, my bliss!
Thou, the great God Whom earth and Heaven adore,
Thou dwell'st a prisoner for me night and day;
And every hour I hear Thy Voice implore:
|I thirst -- I thirst -- I thirst -- for love alway!|
I, too, Thy prisoner am I;
I, too, cry ever unto Thee
Thine own divine and tender cry:
|I thirst!| Oh, let me die
Of love for Thee.
For love of Thee I thirst! fulfil my hope;
Augment in me Thine own celestial flame!
For love of Thee I thirst! too scant earth's scope: The glorious Vision of Thy Face I claim!
My long, slow martyrdom of fire
Still more and more consumeth me.
Thou art my joy, my one desire,
Jesu! may I expire
Of love for Thee.
April 30, 1896.
TO SCATTER FLOWERS
O Jesus! O my Love! each eve I come to fling
My springtide roses sweet before Thy Cross divine;
By their plucked petals fair, my hands so gladly bring, I long to dry Thine every tear!
To scatter flowers! -- that means each sacrifice:
My lightest sighs and pains, my heaviest, saddest hours, My hopes, my joys, my prayers -- I will not count the price -- Behold my flowers!
With deep untold delight Thy beauty fills my soul,
Would I might light this love in hearts of all who live! For this, my fairest flowers, all things in my control, How fondly, gladly would I give!
To scatter flowers! -- behold my chosen sword
For saving sinners' souls and filling Heaven's bowers: The victory is mine -- yea, I disarm Thee, Lord,
With these my flowers!
The petals in their flight caress Thy Holy Face;
They tell Thee that my heart is Thine, and Thine alone. Thou knowest what these leaves are saying in my place: On me Thou smilest from Thy Throne.
To scatter flowers! -- that means, to speak of Thee -- My only pleasure here, where tears fill all the hours; But soon, with Angel Hosts, my spirit shall be free To scatter flowers.
June 28, 1896.
WHY I LOVE THEE, MARY!
Last Poem written by Soeur Therese
Henceforth thy shelter in thy woe was John's most humble dwelling; The son of Zebedee replaced the Son Whom Heaven adored. Naught else the Gospels tell us of thy life, in grace excelling; It is the last they say of thee, sweet Mother of my Lord!
But oh! I think that silence means that, high in Heaven's Glory, When time is past, and to their House thy children safe are come,
The Eternal Word, my Mother dear, Himself will tell thy story, To charm our souls -- thy children's souls -- in our Eternal Home.
Soon I shall hear that harmony, that blissful, wondrous singing; Soon, unto Heaven that waits for us, my soul shall swiftly fly. O thou who cam'st to smile on me at dawn of life's beginning! Come once again to smile on me . . . Mother! the night is nigh.
I fear no more thy majesty, so far removed above me, For I have suffered sore with thee: now hear me, Mother mild! Oh, let me tell thee face to face, dear Mary! how I love thee; And say to thee for evermore: I am Thy little child.
NOTE. -- The above poems are reprinted from the translation of the Little Flower's poems made by Susan L. Emery, of Dorchester, Mass.,
U.S.A., and published by the Carmel of Boston. [Ed.]
End of The Story of a Soul (L'Histoire d'une
Ame): The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Therese Martin (of Lisieux)